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Islamic World News (16 May 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



The Baloch Vs Beijing: Pakistani Militancy Targets Chinese Investment








The Baloch Vs Beijing: Pakistani Militancy Targets Chinese Investment

Charity Group ‘Who Is Hussain?’ Gets Death Threats, IGP Rebuke after ‘Shiah’ Accusation

Malaysia Just Below UAE, Albania in ‘Islamicity’ Index, But New Zealand Beat Them All

Assam: Defying Curfew, Muslim Auto Driver Takes Pregnant Woman To Hospital

Omar Ashfaq Jailed For Leaving 'Violent Footage' In Shoes At Mosques In England

UK Group: Police Misunderstand Islamophobia Definition

Sri Lanka Says Hardline Buddhist Groups Likely Behind Anti-Muslim Attacks

Tackle White Supremacy as Terrorism, Experts Say

Thousands of ISIS Fighters Remain Undefeated In Underground Cells, Coalition General Admits

 

Pakistan

The Baloch Vs Beijing: Pakistani Militancy Targets Chinese Investment

Four lawmen killed in Pakistan bombing: police

15 injured in explosion inside Sadiqabad bank building

PPP to launch street protest against govt after Eid: Zardari

NAB to file corruption reference against Durrani

LHC acquits 2 men convicted for 2014 Kot Radha Kishan lynching of Christian couple

15 injured in explosion inside Rahim Yar Khan bank building

HIV outbreak sparks panic in southern Pakistan

Six dead, 13 injured in Khuzdar accident

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Southeast Asia

Charity Group ‘Who Is Hussain?’ Gets Death Threats, IGP Rebuke after ‘Shiah’ Accusation

Malaysia Just Below UAE, Albania in ‘Islamicity’ Index, But New Zealand Beat Them All

Three Temples, Including Batu Caves, On Alert after Malaysia Foils ISIS Threat

Indonesia's transgender Muslims find safe haven for prayer during Ramadan

First International Islamic Fair Bridges Diverse Islamic Cultures

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India

Assam: Defying Curfew, Muslim Auto Driver Takes Pregnant Woman To Hospital

Why the Muslim vote matters in U.P.

UGC warns against taking admission in PoK institutes

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Europe

Omar Ashfaq Jailed For Leaving 'Violent Footage' In Shoes At Mosques In England

UK Group: Police Misunderstand Islamophobia Definition

Macron, Ardern host Paris summit against online extremism

Tehran ready for any eventuality on nuclear issue: Iranian envoy to Britain

Putin: Russia regrets seeing Iran nuclear deal unravel, done enough to save it

Merkel: We have common interests with Turkey

Turkey urges picking up stalled EU membership talks

Germany slams US pressure campaign against Iran

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South Asia

Sri Lanka Says Hardline Buddhist Groups Likely Behind Anti-Muslim Attacks

At least 15 militants killed in E. Afghan province

7 Taliban militants killed in Ghazni and Zabul airstrikes

Pakistani ISIS members and their family members surrender to Afghan armed forces

Special Forces arrest suspected terrorist attack plotters in Kabul city

Artillery, airstrikes pound Taliban positions along Ghazni-Paktia highway

Senators sponsor bill for 4000 visas for the Afghans who have helped U.S. forces

Taliban commander, fighter killed in separate premature IED explosions

Suicide bomber shot dead before storming government compound in Wardak

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North America

Tackle White Supremacy as Terrorism, Experts Say

Rescued U.S. Hostage Was Due To Be Given To Al Qaeda-Linked Katibat Macina

US orders departure of ‘non-emergency government employees’ from Iraq

Trump says Iran ‘will want to talk soon’

Trump denies any White House discord over Middle East moves

Bolton hasn’t yet learned his lesson from Iraq War: US 2020 candidate

Lebanon leader, US official discuss border demarcation

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Arab World

Thousands of ISIS Fighters Remain Undefeated In Underground Cells, Coalition General Admits

Syria TV says 6 killed in insurgent attack on displaced camp

Islamic State militants kill two civilians in Iraq’s Diyala

Iraqi security arrest Daesh tax collector, wife in Mosul

Suspected ISIS attack leaves two Kurdish civilians dead in disputed Khanaqin

UAE court upholds sentence for man promoting terror groups

Defense Ministry Document Reveals Saudis' Panic after Yemeni Attacks

Aleppo: Syrian Army Gives Crushing Response to Tahrir Al-Sham's Attacks on Civilian Camp

Several Ankara-Backed Militants Killed, Injured in Kurdish Offensive in Aleppo

Syria to exhaust all means to retake Israeli-occupied Golan: Foreign Ministry

4 killed as anti-graft protest rocks Iraq's Najaf

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Mideast

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Attack Saudi Oil Facilities, Escalating Tensions in Gulf

‘The Body Is Completely Empty’: Family of Palestinian Who Died In Turkish Jail

Resistance Fighters Never Give Up Weapons, Never Normalize With Israel: Hamas

Iranian Guards commander: We are on cusp of full-scale confrontation with enemy

Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance: Iranian defense minister

Al-Jubeir: Houthi attack proves they are indivisible part of IRGC

Abdul-Malik al-Houthi: Military escalation will extend to depths of enemy states

6 civilians killed in Saudi strikes on Yemen’s capital

Yemeni retaliatory drone raids on Saudi Arabia had no links to Iran: Ansarullah

Israeli forces injures over 60 Palestinians during Nakba Day protests

UAE hands down heavy jail terms to 3 Hezbollah-linked Lebanese citizens

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Africa

Sudan Opposition Regrets Military Council’s Suspension Of Talks

SPF warns ISIS is taking advantage of the unrest in Tripoli

Somali security forces kill 14 al-Shabab militants in foiled attack

Mali calls for more EU help amid attacks in Africa’s Sahel

Militants ambush soldiers in Niger, 17 killed

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/the-baloch-vs-beijing--pakistani-militancy-targets-chinese-investment/d/118617


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The Baloch vs Beijing: Pakistani militancy targets Chinese investment

May 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A vast Chinese-funded infrastructure project in Pakistan has become a major trigger for separatist insurgents, galvanising their movement as they employ new tactics — including suicide attacks — in an escalation that could rattle Beijing, observers say.

A deadly weekend attack by gunmen who stormed the luxury Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, a port on Pakistan’s southern coast, was the latest high-profile assault linked to the multibillion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

CPEC — part of China’s massive Belt and Road initiative — seeks to link its western province Xinjiang with Gwadar, giving Beijing valuable access to the Arabian Sea and conferring new roads, ports, and airports on Pakistan.

Pakistani authorities routinely tout Gwadar, a former fishing village, as “the next Dubai”.

The problem is that Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province through which much of CPEC runs, is a Pandora’s Box of Islamist, sectarian, and separatist insurgencies.

Saturday’s attack was claimed by the separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). Chinese and Pakistani investors visiting the hotel, isolated high on a ridge overlooking the port, were the target, a spokesman for the BLA said.

“We warn China to stop her exploitative projects in Balochistan and do not support Pakistan in the genocide of Baloch people, otherwise, we would respond with more attacks,” the English-language message to media read.

The BLA has attacked the Chinese in Pakistan before, said analyst Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Centre.

What’s new is the desire and capacity to attack highly visible, well-secured Chinese targets, he said, citing another deadly attack claimed by the group on Beijing’s consulate in Karachi last year.

“There’s good reason to believe that the Pearl Continental attack spooked [Beijing] in a big way, given that a major facility was struck in a city that houses one of the crown jewels of CPEC,” Kugelman said.

The project, he continued, “is a major trigger for Baloch insurgents”.

“CPEC represents everything the insurgents despise: A large infrastructure and development project undertaken by the Pakistani state and its Chinese ally.”

Anger and resentment

Separatist groups in Balochistan, whose proud population have a turbulent history, have long demanded autonomy and a fairer share of resources.

For years the Pakistani military maintained a crushing grip on the insurgency, while brushing off accusations of serious rights abuses.

However, analysts say Chinese investment appears to have imbued the nationalist movement with new energy, inflaming the long-running grievance over resources and giving sometimes-disparate groups a common focus.

At the same time, Pakistan’s determination to protect Chinese investment saw the military further intensify its stance, deepening resentment among the Baloch people.

With positions hardening on both sides, one result is the relatively new phenomenon for Baloch separatists of suicide attacks, such as in the Karachi consulate attack.

Nationalist politician Jan Mohammad Buledi described the development as previously “unimaginable and unthinkable” for a movement driven more by socialist principles than jihad.

“When locals resist they are kidnapped, tortured and their mutilated dead bodies appear,” he explained.

The state, he argued, has left young Baloch “no option but to blow themselves up.

“And now with the influx of Chinese, the Baloch separatists are getting international attention, so it seems the only way out.”

Scorched earth

Anger against the Chinese, seen as usurpers, is real and powerful, said Buledi — but the true enemy for the separatists remains the Pakistani state, with analysts warning that unless genuine grievances are addressed, a low-level insurgency could continue indefinitely

“They blame the state for its long and relentless predatory behaviour in Balochistan, and for the scorched earth policies used by the military,” agreed Kugelman.

Publicly at least, Beijing backs Pakistan’s crackdown, and while the Pearl Continental attack was widely reported in Chinese media the claim that Chinese investors were the target was largely played down.

What Beijing can do about the threats its faces remains to be seen.

One tantalising suggestion came from a Baloch leader based in the United States, who told AFP that some Chinese officials have sought help from exiled Baloch nationalists in exchange for bringing them home.

“To the best of my knowledge they are still in contact with more than half a dozen nationalist leaders in United States, United Kingdom and other European countries,” he said.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/the-baloch-vs-beijing-pakistani-militancy-targets-chinese-investment-1.63962336

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Charity Group ‘Who Is Hussain?’ Gets Death Threats, IGP Rebuke after ‘Shiah’ Accusation

16 May 2019

BY ZURAIRI AR

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 ― The local chapter of the Who is Hussain? charity group urged police yesterday to investigate a barrage of death and violent threats made against it online after it distributed iftar, the Muslim end of fast, packs on Sunday.

However, the group was left dismayed after Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Datuk Seri Abdul Hamid Bador instead admonished them last night, which it blamed on alleged slander by Muslim evangelical group Fakir Ilmu on Monday.

“Our organisation is a charity organisation that aims to bring positive change towards the community. That is our main aim. It has nothing to do with religion,” said country representative Natasha, 30. (She declined to give her patronym due to the sensitivity of the matter).

Natasha, who professes to be Sunni, told Malay Mail the group focuses on environmental issues, poverty, and homelessness, among others, and the iftar pack distribution was part of their advocacy programme.

In Malaysia, only the Sunni denomination of Islam and its Shafie school of jurisprudence are considered official.

Shiah is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant here.

The Who is Hussain group, comprising members of different faiths, distributed the packs — containing Muslim prayer beads, dates, a juice box, and leaflets explaining their activities — in the vicinity of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman on Sunday.

Natasha explained that had been no controversy from the public until Fakir Ilmu published Facebook and blog posts accusing the group of being Shiah.

The situation was similar to another incident in September last year, when convert group Multiracial Reverted Muslims and its founder, Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, made the same accusation after the group held its event at the same spot in Bukit Bintang usually frequented by the group’s Street Dakwah volunteers during its evangelical missions.

Following Fakir Ilmu’s accusation, Who is Hussain’s Facebook page was inundated with derogatory, violent reviews and comments from users purporting to be Muslims.

The group subsequently lodged a police report against the commenters and Fakir Ilmu.

Yesterday, IGP Abdul Hamid said the police would work with religious authorities to stop the group over what he described as an “irresponsible” act that “goes against Sunni teachings”.

Natasha expressed her disappointment over Abdul Hamid’s remark, explaining that the group already met the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) to explain its position prior to yesterday.

Hussain (alternately spelled Husayn or Hussein) was a grandson of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and the son of the latter’s youngest daughter, Fatimah, with his cousin Ali ibn Abu Talib.

Hussain had refused to pledge allegiance to the Umayyad caliph, Yazid, whom he considered unjust and was later assassinated by the latter’s army along with most of his family and companions. He was 55 at the time of his death.

The incident solidified the schism between Sunnis and Shiahs, with the former believing Muhammad did not appoint a successor while the latter holds otherwise.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/16/charity-group-who-is-hussain-gets-death-threats-igp-rebuke-after-shiah-accu/1753432

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Malaysia just below UAE, Albania in ‘Islamicity’ index, but New Zealand beat them all

16 May 2019

BY ZURAIRI AR

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 ― Malaysia is ranked the third highest-ranking Muslim-majority country in this year’s global Islamicity Index which measures a society’s adherence to Quranic teachings and Prophet Muhammad’s practices.

The country’s performance however slid to 47th out of 153 nations worldwide in 2018 compared to 43rd place in the year before. Malaysia ranked just below the United Arab Emirates (45th) and Albania (46th). Saudi Arabia came in at 85th position.

New Zealand continued to top the list for the third year running.

“While the performance of Muslim countries in the overall index is bad, their performance on the Human and Political Index is even worse,” the index’s coordinator, US-based Islamicity Foundation, said in a statement.

“These results bring to life the words of Muhammad Abduh uttered over a century ago: ‘I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but no Islam,” it added, citing the renowned Egyptian Muslim scholar.

The foundation said even the best-performing Muslim-majority countries in the human and political rights category had performed poorly when compared to the rest, with Albania merely ranking 43rd in that category, Bosnia and Herzegovina (50th), the Kyrgyz Republic (76th), Malaysia (79th), and Lebanon (80th).

Overall, the top performing countries after NZ were Sweden, the Netherlands, Iceland, Switzerland, and Ireland.

The bottom three countries were all Muslim-majority: Yemen, Sudan, and Chad.

“These indices do not assess personal requirements of a Muslim (such as daily prayers, fasting and the like) or belief commitments, they are premised instead on Quranic goals and the extent of a society’s adherence to its institutional recommendations and governance,” it said.

“In a rule-abiding Muslim community there must be political and individual freedom, no poverty alongside wealth, equal opportunities for self-development (education, healthcare, basic needs), economic prosperity, accountability of rulers and governments, and socio-economic justice.”

The index is a joint research effort of scholars in 15 Muslim-majority countries, including two in Malaysia: Islamic economist and author Liza Mydin and managing director of Islamic finance advisers DVA Consulting Daud Abdullah.

Prominent economist and former Council of Eminent Persons member Jomo Kwame Sundaram is also one of the Foundation’s three Advisory Board members.

The index was started in 2000 by Hossein Askari, now the president of the Foundation, and an emeritus professor of International Affairs, in George Washington University in Washington DC, US.

Muslims make up 61.3 per cent of the Malaysian population, followed by Buddhists at 19.8 per cent, and Christians at 9.2 per cent, according to the latest census data from 2010.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/05/16/malaysia-just-below-uae-albania-in-islamicity-index-but-new-zealand-beat-th/1753480

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Assam: Defying curfew, Muslim auto driver takes pregnant woman to hospital

May 16, 2019

Hailakandi (/search?query=Hailakandi) (Assam ) [India],May 16 (ANI): In an example of communal harmony, a Muslim autorickshaw driver, unfazed by the curfew imposed in Hailakandi (/search?query=Hailakandi) of Assam (/search?query=Assam), took a Hindu woman who was suffering

labour pain to the hospital.

After the onset of labour pain, Ruben Das needed an ambulance to take his pregnant wife Nandita to the hospital. Seeing that nobody came to the woman's aid, Ruben's neighbour Maqbool came forward and took Nandita to the hospitalat the right time, regardless of the curfew

The woman gave birth to a son, whom the couple eventually named 'Shanti'.

Hailakandi (/search?query=Hailakandi) Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli(/search?query=Keerthi Jalli) reached the residence of Nandita and Ruben. "We need more such examples of Hindu-Muslim unity," she told media here.

Jalli also met Maqbool and thanked him for helping Nandita at the hour of need despite the curfew in the district.

Curfew was imposed due to the communal violence that erupted in Hailakandi six days ago, in which a person was killed and 15 others were injured in firing on May 10. At the same time, 15 vehicles and 12shops were damaged. (ANI)

https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/assam-defying-curfew-muslim-auto-driver-takes-pregnant-woman-to-hospital20190516131408/

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Omar Ashfaq Jailed For Leaving 'Violent Footage' In Shoes At Mosques In England

14 May 2019

A man who left USB sticks containing terrorist propaganda inside shoes at six mosques in England has been jailed.

Omar Ashfaq, 24, of St Thomas Road, in Derby, left 17 of the sticks in footwear while Muslim worshipers were praying between May and June last year.

Derbyshire Police said the sticks contained "violent footage and propaganda encouraging terrorism".

Ashfaq admitted 11 terrorism offences and was given four years and six months in prison at Birmingham Crown Court.

He was also sentenced to one year on licence.

During last year's Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, he left the sticks at mosques in Derby, Loughborough, Coventry, Birmingham and Luton.

Among the material were two videos entitled 'ISIS children execute spies' and 'ISIS burn Turkish Apostate soldiers'.

Worshippers who found the sticks informed mosque authorities who were able to identify Ashfaq from CCTV footage.

One USB stick was discovered by a nine-year-old boy, who had gone to the mosque with his father.

When Ashfaq was arrested at his home, police found a further 15 memory sticks inside bags marked 'Manchester' and 'Bradford' and notes outlining his plans.

A map detailing a route between the mosques was also found.

Det Insp Donna Sisson, head of Derbyshire Special Branch, said he would have continued to distribute up to 250 sticks.

"The USB sticks he managed to deposit contained footage of unspeakable brutality and promoted an extreme ideology," she said.

In March, Ashfaq pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of a document containing information useful to terrorism.

He admitted being in possession of three Islamic State group propaganda magazines.

However, he denied eight charges of dissemination of a terrorist publication.

On the first day of his trial on Monday, Ashfaq changed his plea.

Deb Walsh, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Omar Ashfaq found a novel way to spread violent propaganda in the hope of encouraging British Muslims to commit terrorist acts.

"Instead the mosques he targeted found him on their CCTV recordings and handed in the footage and the memory sticks to the police.

"I want to thank them for acting quickly so the CPS had the crucial evidence we needed to encourage him to plead guilty."

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-derbyshire-48267451

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UK group: Police misunderstand Islamophobia definition

Muhammad Mussa  

15.05.2019

LONDON

U.K. police have been accused of misunderstanding efforts undertaken by a cross-party group that aims to fight anti-Muslim prejudice with a working definition on Islamophobia.

"The inability of senior police officers to understand how Islamophobia -- the plethora of everyday microaggressions impacting British Muslims is NOT THE SAME as Hate Crime shows a worrying lack of understanding of the communities they seek to police," said Sayeeda Warsi, a senior member of the House of Lords, in a statement on Twitter.

Police, however, has made a warning that efforts to come up with a working definition of the phenomenon could undermine free speech and the fight against terrorism.

Muslim groups and MPs have contested this claim, arguing that the proposed new definition was consulted extensively with parliamentarians and police officers.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), the policing body that represents law enforcement in England and Wales, issued a statement on Tuesday night, voicing their concerns regarding the cross-party working definition, arguing that it could cause confusion for officers.

"We are concerned that the definition is too broad as currently drafted, could cause confusion for officers enforcing it and could be used to challenge legitimate free speech on the historical or theological actions of Islamic states" said Martin Hewitt, the NPCC’s chairman, adding that "there is also a risk it could also undermine counter-terrorism powers, which seek to tackle extremism or prevent terrorism."

Harun Khan, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCP), said that the view of the NPCC and its head represented a "woeful misunderstanding" of the proposed working definition and that it is alarming for a public body to make such intervention without consulting or engaging with those involved in the definition.

"Anti-terrorist operations can only be 'hampered' if counter-terror officers have been targeting Muslims because of their identity (or Muslimness as the definition states), categorising them as security concerns," Khan said.

"If this is the case, it confirms long-voiced concerns about the disproportionate focus and impact of counter-terror operations on Muslim communities."

"We would urge Mr. Hewitt to carefully reflect on whether, in a climate where there are concerns of discrimination, it is sensible to publicly intervene in this way," Khan urged the police chief.

Last year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims alongside the MCB devised a working definition on Islamophobia with the aim to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crime. The definition was also drawn up in part to tackle supposed police prejudice against Muslims.

The Labour and Liberal Democrats parties have adopted the working definition and the Conservative party is facing growing calls to adopt it as well after failing to tackle rising Islamophobia within its ranks.

The APPG also found that British Muslims face higher levels of hate crime. Official figures from the report found that the risk of being a victim of race hate crime was highest for Muslim adults at 1.7% compared to non-Muslim adults at 0.2%.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/uk-group-police-misunderstand-islamophobia-definition/1478832

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Sri Lanka Says Hardline Buddhist Groups Likely Behind Anti-Muslim Attacks

May 15, 2019

COLOMBO —

Sri Lanka said on Wednesday hardline Buddhist groups were likely to blame for a wave of anti-Muslim riots that swept the island this week in apparent retaliation for Easter bombings by Islamist militants.

The April 21 attacks, claimed by Islamic State, targeted churches and hotels, killing more than 250 people and fueling fears of a backlash against the nation's minority Muslims.

In the anti-Muslim unrest that started Sunday, mobs moved through towns in Sri Lanka's northwest, ransacking mosques, burning Korans and attacking shops with petrol bombs, residents said.

Authorities have arrested some 78 suspected rioters, including three described as Sinhala Buddhist extremists who had been investigated for similar actions in the town in Kandy district last year.

"These are organized attacks on Muslim business houses and premises," Navin Dissanayake, minister of plantation industries, said during a government news conference about the security situation.

Asked who was organizing the attacks, Dissanayake said: "I think these organizations that Amith Weerasinghe, Dan Priyasad, and Namal Kumara [are heading]," referring to the three Buddhist extremists arrested on Tuesday.

Local media reported on Wednesday that Priyasad was released on bail on Wednesday while Weerasinghe was remanded until May 28. The status of Kumara was not clear.

A police spokesperson was not immediately available for comment on the arrests.

Muslims make up nearly 10% of Sri Lanka's population of 22 million, which is predominantly Buddhist. The Indian Ocean island was torn for decades by a civil war between separatists from the mostly Hindu Tamil minority and the Sinhala Buddhist-dominated government. The government stamped out the rebellion about 10 years ago.

In recent years, Buddhist hardliners, led by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force" have stoked hostility against Muslims, saying Middle Eastern influence has turned the community more conservative and insular.

In the same press conference, Ranjith Madduma Bandara, minister of public administration, said the group behind the attacks had political aims.

"This group is trying to tarnish the government's image and show the government is unable to handle the situation," he said, without naming the organization.

Authorities said the island was calm again, with no anti-Muslim violence reported on Wednesday.

Army probe

Also on Wednesday, Sri Lanka's army said it was investigating a video posted on social media that showed a man wearing what appears to be an army uniform walking away seconds before an anti-Muslim mob attacked a building this week.

In the video, the man stands outside the building and then leaves. Seconds later, about two dozen people, including young men wearing motorbike helmets, run over and throw stones at the building.

Reuters could not independently verify the video. "The attention of the army has been drawn to a video clip where a person dressed in uniform similar to that of the army was watching while a group of violent saboteurs were in action in the general area of Thunmodara," the army said in a statement announcing the investigation.

Two residents of Thunmodara, a town to the northeast of the capital Colombo, told Reuters that a mosque and some Muslim-owned shops were attacked.

In over a dozen interviews in the hard-hit Kurunegala district northeast of Colombo, Muslims said attacks took place despite the presence of security forces.

One police source who declined to be identified told Reuters they did not have enough officers to handle the rioters. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Tuesday rejected allegations that police had stood by.

https://www.voanews.com/a/sri-lanka-says-hardline-buddhist-groups-likely-behind-anti-muslim-attacks/4918585.html

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Tackle white supremacy as terrorism, experts say

By Mallory Simon and Sara Sidner

May 15, 2019

New York (CNN)Americans are being killed. Murdered not for what they have done or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Slaughtered again and again because, whether Jewish, or black, or simply not "pure" white, they are seen as a pestilence to be purged.

Their murderers are followers of a vile and hateful ideology that meets the FBI definition of terrorism. But some top current and former law enforcement officials say that they are not treated as terrorists, because they are American, and they are white.

But amid the rising number of deadly white supremacist attacks, the officials say that must change. White supremacy must be called terrorism and tackled with the same vigor as ISIS and al Qaeda.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance came to that realization while investigating the homicide of a black man in the center of New York City.

66-year-old Timothy Caughman was walking alone in Midtown Manhattan collecting cans to recycle when a man approached from behind. That man plunged a sword through Caughman's chest.

Caughman uttered his last words as he turned toward his killer: "Why are you doing this?"

The man continued to stab him. Caughman bled to death.

The answer to Caughman's question would soon become clear. His killer, James Jackson, had come to New York from Maryland with a plan to start a race war.

This was more than a murder, Vance decided. It was more than a hate crime. It was the targeted killing of a black man with the aspiration of dividing the races to keep killing each other, ending in the death of every black person in the United States and around the world, according to Jackson's manifesto, Vance said.

The case was a seminal one for the district attorney's office and for New York state, where it was the first domestic terrorism conviction of its kind. Vance hopes it sends a message.

"I think we needed to call it what it was," he told CNN.

"This was an act of terrorism," Vance explained. "This exists in our country and it happened here."

It's just that Americans are having a hard time admitting it, he said. It is much easier, Vance continued, for people to call someone a terrorist when they have a different skin color, or don't speak English. But if you are trying to spread fear and wipe out a specific group of people, like Jackson was, then you must call them terrorist, he said. Calling someone a terrorist not only raises the profile of the case but can yield additional charges, and higher sentences.

On the face of it, the killing of Caughman fits into the FBI's category of "domestic terrorism": Perpetrated by individuals and/or groups inspired by or associated with primarily US-based movements that espouse extremist ideologies of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.

Caughman's murder may not have sparked a national outcry. But it is part of a very public and growing, deadly trend of domestic terror attacks committed largely by white men. From the Charleston church massacre through the killing of a protester in Charlottesville and the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, far-right extremists are responsible for -- or suspected of - most of the ideological killings in America in the last 10 years, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which tracks extremist activity.

White supremacist murders in the US "more than doubled in 2017," with far-right extremist groups and white supremacists "responsible for 59% of all extremist-related fatalities in the US in 2017," ADL's audit shows. They were responsible for 20% of these fatalities the year before.

Reps. Omar and Schakowsky: We must confront threat of white nationalism -- together

Depending on who you ask, white supremacist terrorism is either not a problem, or the biggest threat to American democracy in years, but one that's often ignored.

President Donald Trump has said he does not regard white nationalism as a rising global threat.

When asked in the aftermath of the New Zealand mosque massacres if he saw a worrying rise in white supremacy movements around the world, he replied: "I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess."

Intelligence and law enforcement officials under Trump maintain they work to keep up with all threats, though they often don't single out white supremacism publicly, instead referring to domestic terror as a whole. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said the department has a Center for Faith and Opportunity that works with houses of worship to prepare for acts of terrorism and there are other programs that religious and other communities can use to help protect against hate crimes.

But it's still a mistake not to call out white supremacy, according to the former head of the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force at DHS, George Selim.

"If the same number of Americans had been killed at the hands of an individual that was inspired or directed by a foreign terrorist organization, you can bet this Congress and any administration, irrespective of political party would be reacting much differently," he said.

DHS declined to answer specific questions on this story.

Selim will take his arguments to Congress on Wednesday, when he testifies in front of the House Oversight's Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The hearing is titled "Confronting white supremacy: The consequences of inaction."

It's a subject Selim feels he knows too well. During the Bush and Obama administrations, he was often in the room -- whether the Situation Room or the Oval Office -- when key decisions were made about tackling extremism at home.

And as they saw the threat of white supremacists grow, Selim said he worked with colleagues on federal programs, specifically at DHS, that aimed to address and intervene during the radicalization process.

They "were on the cusp" of creating a system to do just that, he said. With bipartisan support, key puzzle pieces were being put in place in the final months of the Obama administration, he said.

And then Trump took office. Selim said during the first seven months of the administration there was a "decimation of the people, resources and prioritization" of those key programs and infrastructure that was aimed at working with law enforcement, counter-messaging, community resilience and engagement and outreach.

He became so frustrated he quit. He saw that the domestic terrorist acts killing Americans were predominantly perpetrated by those with views tied to white nationalism or supremacy, but the new administration had different priorities.

"It's a significant enough [threat] that the federal government needs to devote significantly more people, money and time to both assess and ultimately mitigate," argued Selim, who now leads the education, law enforcement and community security programs for the ADL and oversees the work of the group's Center on Extremism.

'The new normal': Radicalized white men

In some ways, the precursors to the racist murders mirror those before foreign terrorist attacks. The radicalization, specifically online, is similar to those who pledge allegiance to ISIS or al Qaeda, experts say. One of the noticeable differences is these extremists are white.

Timothy Caughman's murderer focused on his hatred for African American men before traveling to New York City and killing him.

In the three weeks before Jackson attacked, he spent huge amounts of his days and nights online studying Nazism and extremism until he was apparently pushed over the edge, Vance said. Interracial dating was an "insurmountable problem," in his mind. He read obsessively about Dylann Roof, who killed nine black worshippers in Charleston in 2015, Vance said.

"The racial world war starts today," Jackson wrote in his manifesto, according to Vance. "Negroes are obviously first on the list for extermination."

The gunman in Charleston and the Pittsburgh and Poway suspects all engaged in hateful speech online before taking their rage and turning it into deadly action.

Officials acknowledge this pattern and it's one reason that Selim believes something can be done to stop these people who are sometimes categorized as untraceable "lone wolves."

Selim also said that, too often, there seems to be a reluctance to name white men as possibly dangerous. And that itself is dangerous because white supremacists and nationalists are a "real and persistent threat," he said.

"As I look forward in the next five to 10 or more years, we need to acclimate ourselves to the new normal, which is increased incidents of domestic extremism, domestic terrorism, anti-Semitism, and all acts of bigotry or Islamophobia, xenophobia that target ethnic and religious minority groups," he said. "Once we understand that that is very likely the new normal, then we can put in place some of the strong infrastructure related to counterterrorism and community resilience that we've already built up and focus it on these new threats that we know we're going to be facing."

ADL CEO: Put hatred back in the sewer where it belongs

With the administration prioritizing other matters, Selim is hoping legislators will hold them accountable and encourage action beyond denunciations of extremist atrocities.

He insists some of the attacks that cost lives are preventable. He advocates for cooperation between law enforcement, social media companies, community leaders and groups like the ADL. And he believes that the initiative he led at the Department of Homeland Security would have borne fruit if funding had been continued.

"The setback won't be able to be measured here and now," Selim said. "I can't tell you that funding of these programs would have prevented Pittsburgh or Poway, but I can say in good conscience that we sure would have stood a better chance at preventing or intervening in incidents like this had funding for these programs continued."

Sending a powerful message

If Selim is hoping Congress will take steps on the identification of dangerous white supremacists, Manhattan DA Vance is hoping the same people will take action on what can be done with suspects once identified.

Many states do not have terrorism laws on the books or prosecute cases the way he did with the murder of Caughman, who called himself a can and bottle recycler and autograph collector on his Twitter account, where he posted a photo of himself waiting to vote in the 2016 election.

But Vance stands by his decision. "It really is no different from him to come up and to seek out to kill black men than a radical Islamist to come to a place to seek out, to kill, men and women who weren't of their faith," Vance said.

And calling it terrorism and getting a life sentence can send a powerful message that white nationalism will not be normalized in New York, Vance said.

He wrote a letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging them to increase federal law enforcement funding. "We can no longer sleep on the danger posed by this country's increasing number of white nationalists. And we cannot continue to treat this type of hate-fueled violence as a lesser form of terrorism, lest we risk normalizing this repulsive behavior and missing opportunities to prevent future attacks."

FBI Assistant Director Michael McGarrity testified to the House Committee on Homeland Security last week that the bureau is doing its part to tackle the issue on a federal level. He shared that the Trump administration has added domestic terrorism to its national security strategy, a first for the country.

"We're highlighting that there is a domestic terrorism threat that is persistent," McGarrity said. "We don't differentiate between a domestic terrorism attack we're trying to stop or an international terrorism attack. It's a terrorism attack we're looking to stop," he said.

But to Selim, the lack of specificity was troubling. He wanted to hear officials say white supremacists. White terror. White nationalist terrorism. To voice what is an unsettling truth -- today's terrorism in the US is most often perpetrated by white Americans who look more like the Founding Fathers than foreign-born jihadis.

Double standards

Outside of perception, the law itself also creates a double standard.

Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions initially told ABC's "Good Morning America" that the killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville met the "definition of domestic terrorism." But James Fields, who drove a car into counter protesters at high speed, wasn't charged with being a terrorist as there is no single crime of domestic terrorism.

Even similar attacks are handled differently depending on the perpetrator in the US. Sayfullo Saipov allegedly rammed a truck along a New York City bike path, killing eight people, three months after Fields' attack.

But Saipov, unlike Fields, was able to be charged with a federal terror offense because of one simple difference -- his alleged allegiance to the foreign ISIS organization.

Another case is the Coast Guard lieutenant currently accused of plotting a domestic terror attack. Prosecutors say he planned to conduct a mass killing of prominent Democratic politicians and members of the news media, including CNN. But without a law saying domestic terrorism is a crime, he can only be charged with lesser offences.

"To illustrate how ridiculous the current situation is, when I was in the FBI investigating people inspired by international terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, the mere association with those groups was enough to land someone behind bars," said Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI special agent. "Not so with domestic terrorism. Even if someone is politically motivated to cause violence due to their right- or left-wing extremist views, that's not enough to get them off the street. Opponents to such a law claim it might infringe on free speech. The issue appears to be a political third rail that few in Congress actually want to touch."

Campbell said that the FBI Agents Association, a private organization that represents the bureau's approximately 13,000 special agents, has been very vocal about the need for new legislation that would equip law enforcement with the tools needed to stop these threats.

A 'scary' silence

In last week's House hearing, members asked the assembled law enforcement chiefs about the online activity of the alleged Poway shooter, who appears to have posted a manifesto on the 8chan site and been cheered on there, as have white supremacist attackers before him.

Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican member of the committee, asked intelligence and law enforcement experts from the FBI, Justice Department and DHS how the US can tackle the issue, seeking advice to guide possible legislation.

"Do you have any recommendations about what can be done to address the violent hate speech and incitement of violence found on fringe sites like 8chan and Gab, and that's for any of you," he asked.

He was met with silence.

"Y'all don't have any suggestions for us?" responded the Alabama congressman. "That's scary. We can't make policy without good advisement."

The officials then explained the difficulties in monitoring the forums and balancing free speech. And DHS says they have developed robust partnerships with the tech sector.

But at the root of it all, again, is there's no domestic terrorism statute.

Which is another reason Vance wrote his letter. "I think it's a big problem and we focused so much on Islamic radicalism since 2000, since 9/11, that I think perhaps we've taken our eye off the ball of what is an equally large problem -- and that is those who are being radicalized in our midst," Vance told CNN.

He admits he was himself late to see the issue.

"If the Manhattan district attorney -- I'll profess having more ignorance than I should have had -- but if I'm not paying attention to it, then, probably a lot of people aren't paying attention to it enough also," he said.

He's now set his office on a new course, and hopes more will follow, from the federal level on down, however painful it may be.

"I think as, as white Americans, we may not be as readily willing to identify this group of terrorists that are like us," he said. "And I think that's perhaps a little bit of human nature it's easier to identify the enemy as someone who doesn't look like you or doesn't speak the language, but when it is your neighbor and like people you know, then it's, it's harder to, it's hard to call that out ... and call it terrorism."

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/14/us/white-supremacy-terrorism-soh/index.html

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Thousands of ISIS fighters remain undefeated in underground cells, coalition general admits

by Jamie McIntyre

May 14, 2019

Despite the destruction of the Islamic State's physical caliphate in March, thousands of its fighters have simply gone underground and remain a significant threat, carrying out deadly attacks, a senior coalition military officer said Tuesday.

“It has been reorganizing itself into a network of cells and intent on striking key leaders, village elders, and military personnel to undermine the security and stability in Iraq and Syria,” British Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, a senior spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said from Baghdad in a briefing for Pentagon reporters.

“Daesh fighters are still ambushing security patrols, detonating [improvised explosive devices], and conducting kidnappings,” said Ghika, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “Despite its territorial setbacks, Daesh is still having successes, and its ideology still inspires people around the world.”

Ghika said there are “on the order of 10,000” members of ISIS in Iraq and several thousand in Syria, including people who are not fighters but support the group.

Many of the ISIS fighters the U.S.-led coalition drove out of the terrorist group's final stronghold in Syria are Iraqis, and most of them have returned to Iraq and have been hiding in mountain caves, where they have been targeted by U.S., coalition, and Iraqi airstrikes in recent weeks.

“We are doing everything we can to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and the global coalition and the international community must continuously work to prevent the evil brand from spreading worldwide and terrorizing our communities at home,” said Ghika.

Ghika paired his warning with a plea for help. “We cannot do it ourselves. Campaigns cannot be won by fighting alone,” he cautioned, saying the last defeat of ISIS depends on international assistance to rebuild the civil institutions and local governance that can restore peace and prosperity.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/defense-national-security/thousands-of-isis-fighters-remain-undefeated-in-underground-cells-coalition-general-admits

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Pakistan

 

Four lawmen killed in Pakistan bombing: police

May 14, 2019

QUETTA: Four police were killed and nine people wounded when militants detonated a bomb hidden under a motorbike in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, police said on Monday.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the attack.

Two of the wounded were also police, senior police official Abdul Razaq Cheema told AFP.

“Two of the injured are critical,” he added.

The motorbike was parked outside a mosque where police personnel were posted in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.

The attack came two days after Baloch separatists attacked a luxury hotel in the province’s second city, Gwadar, where development of a port is the flagship project of a multibillion dollar Chinese infrastructure initiative in Pakistan.

Five people including a soldier died in the hotel attack, which also left all three militants dead.

The violence comes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies.

The Pakistani military has been waging war on militants there since 2004, and security forces are frequently targeted.

Rights activists accuse the military of abuses, which it denies.

Balochistan is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.

CPEC seeks to connect China’s western province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, giving Beijing access to the Arabian Sea.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/four-lawmen-killed-in-pakistan-bombing-police-1.63933671

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15 injured in explosion inside Sadiqabad bank building

Malik Irfanul

HaqMay 16, 2019

At least 15 people were injured in an explosion that took place inside the building of a private bank on National Highway in Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Rescue 1122 officials told DawnNewsTV on Thursday.

Rescue 1122 officials reached the site of the blast as the news broke. The building where the blast took place collapsed partially.

According to Rescue 1122 officials, a search and recuse operation is currently underway and the injured are being shifted to hospitals.

Deputy Commissioner Sadiqabad Jameel Ahmed Jameel has declared an emergency in the DHQ and Sheikh Zaid Hospital.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482653/15-injured-in-explosion-inside-sadiqabad-bank-building

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PPP to launch street protest against govt after Eid: Zardari

Malik Asad

May 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that his party would launch a street protest against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government after Eid.

Talking briefly to journalists after obtaining pre-arrest bail from the Islamabad High Court in the fake bank accounts case, Mr Zardari said the government was afraid of his party’s protest and that was why they had fabricated cases against him.

On Tuesday, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) submitted to the IHC a report stating that the bureau was proceeding against Mr Zardari in 36 different cases and out of which his role had been established in at least eight cases so far. The anti-graft watchdog submitted the 11-page report in response to a petition filed by the former president seeking details of the cases relating to fake bank accounts being pursued by NAB against him.

Asked why NAB was conducting dozens of inquiries against him, Mr Zardari sarcastically said because he owned so much money.

Interestingly, after perusing the NAB report, even the IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani observed that there were too many cases and “never ending”.

NAB has so far filed five interim references in an accountability court in the fake accounts case, besides issuing call-up notices to Mr Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and close aides in 36 inquiries.

Lead defence counsel Farooq H. Naek pointed out “overlapping” of the facts in different inquiries. He informed the IHC bench that there were fewer issues against which NAB had initiated about three dozen inquiries and investigations. He suggested to the court to be specific in the matter since the suspects flooded the IHC with bail pleas due to variety of inquiries related to the fake bank accounts.

NAB in its report also provided a list of fake accounts cases pending before the IHC. A majority of the cases are those in which the accused, including Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur, Hussain Lawai and Anwar Majeed, sought bail from the court.

Since the registration of the fake bank accounts case with the Federal Investigation Agency in June last year, 11 petitions have been filed — eight by Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur and others seeking pre-arrest bail, one by Khawaja Nimar Majeed seeking information about cases and two by Hussain Lawai and Taha Raza seeking post-arrest bail.

In a reference relating to illegal allotment of amenity plots, three accused filed bail pleas. In the Pink Residency reference, four accused are seeking pre-arrest bail. In another reference relating to illegal award of contract by the Special Initiative Department, Sindh, five accused are seeking bail.

As per the NAB report, there are 12 different petitions in which Mr Zardari, Ms Talpur, former Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah and others are seeking bail from the IHC.

On the suggestion of Advocate Naek, the IHC clubbed together the petitions related to Park Lane properties, luxury vehicles, illegal award of contracts and receiving kickbacks from private companies and adjourned the hearing till May 29.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482610/ppp-to-launch-street-protest-against-govt-after-eid-zardari

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NAB to file corruption reference against Durrani

May 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The National Account­ability Bureau (NAB) on Wednesday decided to file a corruption reference against Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in an accountability court and conduct investigations and inquiries against some politicians and government officials of Sindh and other provinces.

The decisions were made at a meeting of the NAB Executive Board presided over by chairman of the anti-graft watchdog retired Justice Javed Iqbal and attended by, among others, deputy chairman Hussain Asghar.

A NAB handout said: “A corruption reference would be filed against Agha Siraj Durrani, Speaker Sindh Assembly, and others. They have been accused of making illegal assets by abusing authority, causing Rs600 million loss to national exchequer.”

At a meeting of its regional board in Karachi on April 30, the bureau had sought its chairman’s approval to file a reference against Mr Durrani. The regional board was told that the suspect had accumulated assets to the tune of Rs1.6 billion “much beyond his known sources of income and worth of declared assets,” the press release said.

“The assets are held by the accused, his family and various benamidars who have been recommended for trial,” the statement said, adding that certain benamidars were personal servants of Mr Durrani and his family members.

Having been arrested from a hotel in Islamabad on Feb 20, Mr Durrani is also being investigated for allegedly making 352 illegal appointments, embezzlement of public funds in the construction of the MPA Hostel (Karachi) and the new Sindh Assembly building, as well as irregularities in the appointment of project directors for these projects.

The NAB Executive Board also approved filing of two other references: one against Mazharul Islam, former executive director of Lok Virsa, Islamabad, for awarding a contract to favourites, causing a loss of Rs30.13m to the national kitty.

The other reference was approved against Fazal Mannan, former director education of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and others for making fake appointments of teachers, causing a loss of Rs.117m to the national exchequer.

The meeting gave a go-ahead for conducting an investigation against Atif Kamran, chief executive officer of Unico Private Limited, a private firm, and others.

Inquiries were authorised against some politicians and officials, including former federal minister for housing and works Akram Durrani, former provincial minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sher Azam Wazir and others; Ali Ghulam Nizamani, former member of the Sindh Assembly; Saeed Khan Nizamani, member of the Sindh Assembly; Mohammad Sohail, former director general of Malir Development Authority, Karachi; Asmatullah, executive engineer, MES, Sialkot Cantonment; certain officials of Karachi Port Trust and Health Department of Sindh; programme manager of Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme, Sindh, and others; officials of Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, KP; officials of Food Department, Khuzdar, Balochistan; Abdul Wahab Sehato, executive engineer, Public Health Engineering Division, Larkana, and others; Iqbal Sheikh, a government contractor and others; and management of Chinone Builders and others.

The NAB board referred an inquiry against management/officials of the Sargodha Cattle Market Management and others to the chief secretary of Punjab for action as per law and another inquiry against Rehmattullah Baloch, chief executive officer of Kesco and others to their department for departmental action as per the law.

The NAB board gave its consent to closing inquiries against Senator Hafiz Abdul Karim, former communication minister Usman Abdul Karim; Anas Abdul Karim, Dr Najeeb Haider, former MPA Ghulam Qadir Palijo, Abdul Sattar Dero, former managing director of the Port Qasim Authority, officials of Communication and Works Department and MechaTech Pvt and others due to lack of incriminating evidence at the moment.

The board also approved closure of an investigation against the owners of A.M. Construction Company (Pvt) Limited and others due to lack of incriminating evidence at the moment.

NAB also announced that it was the bureau’s year-long policy to inform the people about the details of the decisions made at meetings of its executive board. “The policy is not aimed at hurting anyone. The investigations and inquiries are initiated on the basis of allegations and as per law NAB proceeds further after obtaining the point of view of the accused and the complainant.”

After the meeting, the NAB chief said taking mega corruption cases to their logical conclusion was his top priority, adding that the bureau was pursuing “accountability for all policy” vigorously.

He said all resources were being utilised to take looted money back from the plunderers. “Corruption is root cause of all ills and its elimination is collective responsibility of all Pakistanis,” he added.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482592/nab-to-file-corruption-reference-against-durrani

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LHC acquits 2 men convicted for 2014 Kot Radha Kishan lynching of Christian couple

Rana Bilal

May 16, 2019

The Lahore High Court on Thursday acquitted two men convicted for the 2014 burning alive of a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan.

Shahzad and Shama Masih were burned alive in a brick kiln by a frenzied lynch mob ─ incited by announcements made from mosques in the area ─ ranging between 400-1,000 people for their alleged role in the desecration of the Holy Quran in Nov 2014.

Both husband and wife were brick kiln workers, and the woman, a mother of three, was pregnant at the time. Police had registered a case against 660 villagers after the incident. In 2015, an anti-terrorism court had indicted 106 suspected in the lynching.

In Nov 2016, the ATC sentenced five men ─ identified as Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, and local prayer leader Hafiz Ishtiaq ─ to two counts of death for their involvement in the burning alive of the couple.

Eight others were also charged with involvement in the lynching and sentenced to two years each in prison.

Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan headed a two-judge bench hearing appeals filed by Muhammad Hanif and Hafiz Ishtiaq against the ATC's 2016 verdict.

The appeals of three other convicts, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, were dismissed today by the court, which upheld their death sentences.

The lawyer for the convicts appealed to the court against the punishment handed to them by the ATC, saying that the court had given its verdict without taking the law into consideration.

He said that all the convicts had been nominated at a later stage in the case and pleaded for their acquittal.

The state prosecutor argued that there was solid evidence against all the convicts and requested the court to scrap the appeal.

The court subsequently acquitted two of the convicts, while upholding the ATC's earlier verdict on the appeals of three of the convicts.

Kot Radha Kishan lynching

A mob of around 400 people lynched Shahzad and Shama for their alleged role in desecrating the Holy Quran in November 2014. Both husband and wife were brick kiln workers from Chak-59 of Kot Radha Kishan, a town in Kasur district. The woman, mother of three, was pregnant.

Police and witnesses told Dawn in Nov 2014 that announcements had been made from mosques on Tuesday asking villagers to gather at the Yousaf brick kiln where 25-year-old Shama and her husband Shahzad Masih worked as bonded labourers.

Over 1,000 charged people from three villages took out the couple from a room (where they had taken shelter) after tearing apart its roof. The mob tortured the couple before putting them into the kiln’s furnace. The mob also held hostage five policemen who tried to rescue the couple and the villagers also manhandled some media personnel and snatched their cameras.

Police registered a case against 660 villagers, including 60 who were nominated in a First Information Report lodged on the complaint of Sub-Inspector Muhammad Ali of Chowki Factory Area.

The FIR said the mob had thrashed the couple and dragged them to a kiln where Mohammad Yousaf Gujar, the kiln owner, and his accountants Shakeel and Afzal, allegedly removed a lid from one of the openings of the furnace and threw the couple into it.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482652/lhc-acquits-2-men-convicted-for-2014-kot-radha-kishan-lynching-of-christian-couple

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15 injured in explosion inside Rahim Yar Khan bank building

Malik Irfanul Haq

May 16, 2019

At least 15 people were injured in an explosion that took place inside the building of a private bank on National Highway in Sadiqabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Rescue 1122 officials told DawnNewsTV on Thursday.

Rescue 1122 officials reached the site of the blast as the news broke. The building where the blast took place collapsed partially.

According to Rescue 1122 officials, a search and recuse operation is currently underway and the injured are being shifted to hospitals.

Deputy Commissioner Sadiqabad Jameel Ahmed Jameel has declared an emergency in the DHQ and Sheikh Zaid Hospital.

The nature of the explosion is yet to be determined and the area surrounding the bank has been cordoned off.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1482653/15-injured-in-explosion-inside-rahim-yar-khan-bank-building

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HIV outbreak sparks panic in southern Pakistan

MAY 16, 2019

Parents nervously watch as their children wait to be tested for HIV in a village in southern Pakistan, where hundreds of people have been allegedly infected by a doctor using a contaminated syringe.

Dispatched to keep order, police scan the anxious crowd as families hustle into one of five different screening rooms set up in the last month in the village of Wasayo, on the outskirts of Larkana in Sindh province.

Health officials say more than 400 people, many of them children, have tested HIV positive in recent weeks as experts warn of a surge in infection rates across Pakistan, due to the use of unsanitary equipment and rampant malpractice — often at the hands of quack doctors.

Anger and fear continue to swell in the desperately poor village hit hard by the epidemic, which authorities say could be linked to either gross negligence or malicious intent by a local pediatrician.

“They are coming by the dozens,” says a doctor at the makeshift clinic, beset by a lack of equipment and personnel to treat the surging number of patients.

Mukhtar Pervez waits anxiously to have her daughter tested, worrying a recent fever may be linked to the outbreak. For others, their worst fears have already become a reality.

Nisar Ahmed arrived at the clinic in a furious search for medicine after his one-year-old daughter tested positive three days earlier.

“I curse [the doctor] who has caused all these children to be infected,” he says angrily.

Nearby Imam Zadi accompanies five of her children to be examined after her grandson tested positive.

“The entire family is so upset,” she tells AFP.

Others worry their children’s futures have been irreparably harmed after contracting HIV, especially in a country whose masses of rural poor have little understanding of the disease or access to treatment.

“Who is she going to play with? And when she’s grown up, who would want to marry her?” asks a tearful mother from a nearby village, who asked not to named, of her four-year-old daughter who just tested positive.

 ‘Helpless’-

Pakistan was long considered a low prevalence country for HIV, but the disease is expanding at an alarming rate, particularly among intravenous drug users and sex workers.

With about 20,000 new HIV infections reported in 2017 alone, Pakistan currently has the second fastest growing HIV rates across Asia, according to the UN.

Pakistan’s surging population also suffers the additional burden of having insufficient access to quality healthcare following decades of under-investment by the state, leaving impoverished, rural communities especially vulnerable to unqualified medical practitioners.

“According to some government reports, around 600,000 quack doctors are operating across the country and around 270,000 are practicing in the province of Sindh,” said UNAIDS in a statement.

Provincial health officials have also noted that patients are at particular risk of contracting diseases or viruses at these clinics, where injections are often pushed as a primary treatment option.

“For the sake of saving money, these quacks will inject multiple patients with a single syringe. This could be the main cause of the spread of HIV cases,” said Sikandar Memon, provincial programme manager of the Sindh Aids Control Programme.

The large number of unqualified doctors along with the “reuse of syringes, unsafe blood transfusions, and other unsafe medical practices” have all led to the spike in HIV cases in recent years, explains Bushra Jamil, an expert on infectious diseases at the Aga Khan University in Karachi.

“Rampant medical malpractices without any effective checks and balances are causing repeated outbreaks in Pakistan,” said Jamil.

Authorities investigating the outbreak in Sindh say the accused doctor has also tested positive for HIV.

From a ramshackle jail cell in the nearby city of Ratodero, he denied the charges and accusations he knowingly injected his patients with the virus, while complaining of being incarcerated with common criminals.

But for the parents of the newly diagnosed, the ongoing investigation means little if they are unable to secure access to better information and the necessary drugs that can help stave off the deadly AIDS virus.

“We are helpless. I have other children and I am afraid they might catch the disease,” says another mother whose daughter recently tested positive for HIV.

Full report at:

https://dailytimes.com.pk/395228/hiv-outbreak-sparks-panic-in-southern-pakistan/

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Six dead, 13 injured in Khuzdar accident

MAY 16, 2019

At least six people died while 13 others, including women and children, sustained injuries after a driver lost control of a bus and hit two other buses parked on National Highway in Khuzdar district on Tuesday night.

According to Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ilyas Kabzai, two passengers buses carrying commuters were parked at Naach area due to rain when a third coach hit them, ostensibly due to rain.

Levies officials shifted the bodies and the injured to hospitals, with two of them in serious condition.

Provincial Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Longove, along with Adviser for Education Haji Muhammad Khan Lheri and Adviser for Quetta Development Authority (QDA) Bushra Rind, expressed sorrow over the loss of precious lives in separate statements.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/05/15/six-dead-13-injured-in-khuzdar-accident/

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Southeast Asia

 

Three temples, including Batu Caves, on alert after Malaysia foils ISIS threat

May 16, 2019

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Three temples in Kuala Lumpur have tightened security following the arrest of four suspects linked to an extremist religious group said to have ties with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group. The three temples are the Batu Caves Sri Subramaniyar Temple, Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple on Jalan Tun H.S Lee, and Courthill Sri Ganesha Temple on Jalan Pudu Ulu.

In a statement on Thursday (May 16), Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Devasthanam Kuala Lumpur, which runs the three historic temples, said it was wary after it was reported that one of the reasons cited for the planned attack was to avenge the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim.

"We view the arrests seriously, and their intentions which had been planned, which was to target places of worship as well as entertainment outlets in a supposedly act of revenge on the unfortunate death of the fireman in the Seafield temple incident last year," according to the organisation.

It added that among the steps taken were random checks on bags and monitoring of visitors.

It also urged devotees to keep a watchful eye for suspicious characters.

"We are consistently looking at steps to be taken to elevate security and safety measures at all three temples," it said, adding that the Batu Caves temple alone drew an average of 3,000 tourists a day.

Fireman Adib, 24, was critically injured in the early morning of Nov 27 last year after he and his team members responded to an emergency call at the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Subang Jaya, where a riot had taken place earlier.

Mr Adib was taken to hospital and later transferred to the National Heart Institute for further treatment, but he died on Dec 17.

No one has been charged over the death, and there is an ongoing inquest into the incident.

Mr Adib's death has become a rallying call for some Malaysian Muslims, including those in the Malay-Muslim opposition parties, who feel that his death has not been addressed by the government.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/three-temples-including-batu-caves-on-alert-after-malaysia-foils-isis-threat

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Indonesia's transgender Muslims find safe haven for prayer during Ramadan

MAY 16, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A small Islamic school in Indonesia is providing a safe haven for the marginalized transgender community to pray during the holy month of Ramadan, its founder said on Thursday, calling for wider acceptance of LGBT+ people.

Muslims around the world are observing the month-long Ramadan - which began in early May - with fasting from dawn to dusk and extra prayers at mosques until the Eid al-Fitr celebrations in early June.

Transgender people are often stigmatized when they pray in mosques, where women and men are segregated, said Shinta Ratri, who runs the Pesantren Waria al-Fatah school in the central Java city of Yogyakarta.

“We want to provide a safe space for the ‘waria’ because praying in mosques can feel very uneasy sometimes,” said Ratri, using the Indonesian term which refers to transgender people.

“We can express ourselves freely here. We can observe Ramadan and pray together, it is important for us Muslims in the holy month,” the 57-year-old transgender woman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Billed as the world’s only Islamic boarding school for transgender people, the institution founded in 2008 is a testament to the tolerant brand of Islam long practiced in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

But a surge in anti-LGBT+ sentiments in recent years forced the school to temporarily shut in 2016 after it was mobbed by a group of Islamic hardliners.

It currently has 42 students, all transgender women who are mostly street performers or sex workers, who attend weekly prayers and classes about Islam taught by six Muslim preachers.

The students can choose to dress as man or woman during prayers, Ratri said.

For Ramadan, the school has added extra Koran study sessions and special prayers at night, while it also holds fast-breaking meals at sunset for the students and local community.

“What we want to show is that we have the right to worship and we are accepted in Islam. We are transgender people but we do not forget our obligations as Muslims,” said Ratri.

Human rights activists say religious conservatism is threatening to erode the Indonesia’s long-standing reputation for tolerance of minorities like for the transgender people.

Homosexuality is not regulated by law in Indonesia, except in the ultra-conservative province of Aceh where same-sex acts are banned, but the country has a growing number of bylaws targeting LGBT+ people.

An Indonesian filmmaker received death threats after his latest movie, about a male dancer exploring his gender identity, was released domestically last month and sparked an online backlash that led to bans in some cities.

For Ratri, her Ramadan prayer has been the same every year for many decades.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-lgbt-ramadan/indonesias-transgender-muslims-find-safe-haven-for-prayer-during-ramadan-idUSKCN1SM0NX

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First International Islamic Fair Bridges Diverse Islamic Cultures

MAY 11, 2019

Jakarta. The first Indonesia International Islamic Fair was held on May 9 through May 11 at Balai Kartini, Jakarta, bridging the gap between diverse Islamic cultures from all over the world.

The Indonesia International Islamic Fair (IIIF) was inaugurated by event initiator, Anna Mariana, along with her husband Tjokorda Kusumayudha, celebrity cleric Yusuf Mansur, and representatives from Palestine, Kuwait and Lebanon.

The fair aimed to  introduce Islamic cultures and views to the world through fashion shows, talk shows, competitions, a bazaar, a food exhibition and other cultural attractions.

"We're showcasing all the best products that are ready to enter the global market. There are nine Middle Eastern countries directly involved with this event that are presenting their products," Anna said at the event on Friday.

"The representatives and the buyers will meet in a Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer gathering which will be held on May 10 and 11," she added.

In the opening fashion show, Anna presented 60 of her best works that are Moroccan-themed.

"All of my best works came from the brand under House of Marsya by Anna Mariana. There's Anna & Co, Marsya & Co which is women-only attire, and men-only RMD Collection. They are all luxurious, international class, and good for adults and millennials. There's a strong sense of national pride woven into each and every design," Anna said.

The IIIF 2019 was fully supported by the government bodies, embassies, and businesses involved. Among them were the Ministry of Religion, Ministry of Tourism, Jakarta city government, South Tangerang city government, the Saudi Arabian embassy, Turkish embassy, Middle Eastern Trade Chamber, Indonesia Mosque Council and the Indonesia Traditional Textile Community.

Full report at:

https://jakartaglobe.id/culture/first-international-islamic-fair-bridges-diverse-islamic-cultures

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India

 

Why the Muslim vote matters in U.P.

Zoya Hasan & Mannika Chopra

MAY 16, 2019

Uttar Pradesh continues to hold the key to political power in the country. The results for the 80 parliamentary seats in this keystone State will decide who governs India. Travelling through five districts of Awadh, including the VIP constituencies of Lucknow, Amethi and Rae Bareli, makes it amply clear that the Muslim vote will play a crucial role in the final outcome.

Tactical voting

There are three interconnected assumptions about Muslim political behaviour, which may not necessarily be accurate. First, they vote en bloc for one candidate or party. Second, they are more strategic in their voting than other demographics. Third, their voting preference is likely to be influenced by clerics or traditional community leaders. While there was little evidence to support this view of Muslim unity in the past as they mostly voted for parties that best protected their interests, in 2019, opposition to the polarising politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is clearly influencing electoral preferences and imparting a unity of purpose to the Muslim vote. Although the most important issues for Muslims, as indeed for any voter, are education, health care, jobs and infrastructure, today as a community they feel beleaguered; hence their singular aspiration to vote for the strongest party or alliance that can defeat the BJP.

If previously they did not vote en bloc for any single party, in this election too they are not voting as a homogenous group but there is a strong preference and consolidation behind the mahagathbandhan (the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal, or SP-BSP-RLD, alliance) because it is more likely than the Congress to overwhelm the BJP. This feeling is so strong that even elite and upper-middle class Muslim families, which have historically had close ties to the Congress in Lucknow, have chosen to vote for the alliance.

powered by Rubicon Project

Significantly, then, unlike other social groups, Muslims will exercise their vote along ideological lines, and not on the basis of the candidate’s identity. Nonetheless, some Muslims may not vote as a unified entity despite the consciousness that 2019 is a critical election. “This verdict will be the life or death of democracy in India,” said Manzoor Ali from the Giri Institute of Development Studies. This was also evident in scores of voters travelling long distances from different cities to cast their vote on May 6 in Lucknow.

This is not surprising because U.P. — which saw the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 in Ayodhya, is now run by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and has been long considered to be the pulse of the Hindi heartland — is the centrepiece of the Hindutva project built largely on creating a fear of Muslims as the Other. This has resulted in fundamental changes in U.P. politics — and more so in Awadh, a BJP stronghold since the days of the Ayodhya movement. The landslide victory of the BJP in 2014 and in the 2017 Assembly elections has seen the consolidation of the Hindu vote under the BJP, while Muslim votes have remained split between the Congress and regional parties. At the same time, many Muslims in Lucknow, Rae Bareli, Amethi, Faizabad and Ayodhya narrate how the Rasthriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been sowing seeds of division and splitting up communities.

The BJP has extensively used issues such as national security, terrorism, uber-patriotism and cow protection to construct a ‘Hindu’ constituency. It has tried to exploit its so-called progressive stand on the triple talaq issue to attract Muslims. (After raising the issue with such intensity, ironically the BJP did not give a single ticket to a Muslim woman). It has also tried hard to slice the Shia vote by promoting Shia clerics such as Maulana Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, who issued a statement extending support to Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the BJP candidate from Lucknow. But this was promptly dismissed by most people as inconsequential. So, neither of these efforts is likely to help the BJP in getting a significant chunk of the Muslim vote because of the widely shared perception that it is an anti-Muslim party.

Fearfulness as cohesion

Though Muslim identity on the ground is highly fragmented, varying with religious denomination, caste and class, the lack of security and overriding fear have neutralised social differences. Madhavi Kuckreja, a social activist, recalled how a rumour about a stray cattle being injured in a road accident led to anxious guests promptly leaving a walima (wedding reception) to rush back home. Such apprehensions are driven by the fear of the mob and police crackdowns (even when they are the victims of violence). This surcharged environment has been fostered by repeated incidents of mob lynching over perceived cow slaughter, ban on the beef trade and its consumption and the vicious anti-Muslim rhetoric of BJP leaders such as Mr. Adityanath, who portrayed the electoral battle as one between “Ali” and “Bajrang Bali”.

Secularism, in the new political context, has been redefined as Muslim appeasement. It has helped the BJP to gather Hindu support, especially as no party is willing to represent the concerns of Muslims. Democracy and development should go hand in hand. but in U.P. the two do not share a symbiotic relationship.

Hence, political and social equality in terms of roughly proportionate distribution of development benefits and representation eludes them. Muslims in rural areas feel they’ve been left out of government schemes such as the Ujjwala Yojana or in getting financial support to build toilets or homes while other strong contenders in the rural hierarchy are benefiting.

It is indeed odd that though Muslims constitute 43 million of U.P.’s 200 million-strong population, no party is really talking about issues that concern them as the battle for 2019 rages. Instead there is a manufactured silence. Majoritarian impulses, to a greater or lesser degree, are the foundation for the current political discourse, as are caste alliances in which the Muslim voice has little space. Their current marginalisation is a far cry from the time when Muslims were crucial to the political fortunes of parties, especially the Congress. Today the tendency towards political equality when it comes to the distribution of power or representation is completely missing. Perhaps the Muslim is seen as a liability. In 2019, as in 2014, the BJP has not fielded a single Muslim candidate in U.P., while it is 10 for the mahagathbandhan and eight for the Congress.

This deliberate neglect has had its repercussions. The politics of hate has forced Muslims to give priority to security of life and property. Even more worryingly, they are once again looking to clerics for succour whereas a few years earlier they were beginning to show signs of autonomy and independent thinking, said Athar Husain, Director, Centre for Objective Research and Development in Lucknow. They are getting pushed back into ghettos and into the arms of conservative clerics. Fearing a backlash, they are reluctant to protest against attacks on their livelihoods, food habits, closure of slaughterhouses and meat shops or any other issues that matter to them.

Weapon of the marginalised

Despite the failure of politics which has invisiblised legitimate issues and allowed a radical Hindutva consolidation in their name, Muslims continue to believe in the efficacy of their vote. Even though their representation in Parliament and State legislatures has fallen drastically and development deficits haven’t been addressed, there is no dilution in their electoral participation. What is significant is that discrimination and low representation have not bothered Muslim voters or affected their political engagement with democracy. This is because the vote is a weapon of the weak — a political counter against the concerted effort to render them voiceless and irrelevant. It can establish links between local voices and regional forces, between the politics of community and the idea of citizenship.

By capitalising on their vote, U.P. Muslims today, more than ever, want to demonstrate that they still count in India’s democracy. They are using their vote to demand a new deal which crucially depends on dismantling the BJP’s Hindutva project in India’s heartland.

Zoya Hasan is Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi. Mannika Chopra is Managing Editor, Social Change, Council for Social Development

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/why-the-muslim-vote-matters-in-up/article27141589.ece

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UGC warns against taking admission in PoK institutes

Written by Bashaarat Masood

May 16, 2019

The University Grants Commission has warned students against taking admission in educational institutions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) stating it is an integral part of India and under illegal occupation of Pakistan.

“Since Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) is an integral part of Union of India and the educational institutions including universities, medical colleges and technical institutions and other education institutions situated in PoJK are neither established by Government of India nor recognized by statutory authorities such as University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), etc,” states the May 8 UGC notification issued by Secretary Professor Rajnish Jain.

“Therefore, students are cautioned/ advised against taking admission in any college/ university/ technical institution in any territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan including the so-called AJK and Gilgit Baltistan, which are currently not recognized in India,” the notification said.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, described the UGC directive as “politicisation” of education and said it “violates” the fundamental right of students to take education anywhere in the world. “It is unfortunate politicisation of education, which violates the fundamental right of students to seek education anywhere in the globe. It (the UGC notification) has put the career of those studying there in jeopardy and uncertainty.”

While every year, a large number of students from Kashmir valley take admission in Pakistani colleges, especially for medical courses, very few students choose PoK as their destination for higher studies. The Pakistani colleges have a special quota for students from Kashmir.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ugc-jammu-kashmir-pok-institutes-admission-5730048/

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Europe

 

Macron, Ardern host Paris summit against online extremism

15/05/2019

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand’s premier Jacinda Ardern will host other world leaders and leading tech chiefs on Wednesday to launch an ambitious new initiative aimed at curbing extremism online.

The initiative, known as the 'Christchurch call', was pushed by Ardern after a self-described white supremacist gunned down 51 people in a massacre at two mosques in the New Zealand city in March, the country’s worst atrocity of recent times.

Participants will be asked to commit to pledges to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media and other online platforms.

The political meeting will run in parallel to an initiative launched by Macron called 'Tech for Good' which will bring together 80 tech chiefs in Paris to find a way for new technologies to work for the common good.

The summit comes as there is a growing realisation that the current abuse of social media by extremists must be countered, after the Christchurch attacker broadcast live footage on Facebook from a head-mounted camera.

Dorsey but no Zuckerberg

Ardern has been the driving force behind the Paris summit following the tragedy.

The New Zealand leader earned huge international prominence and respect after the attacks by reaching out to Muslim communities at home and vowing a widescale crackdown on extremist content.

Other key leaders attending include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Prominent figures from tech and social networks will also be present, most notably Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey, who will also have bilateral talks with Ardern.

However, to the disappointment of some, a notable absentee will be Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who held talks in Paris with Macron last week.

The social network giant, under fire from all quarters over its response to violent extremist content, will instead by represented by its vice president for global affairs and communications Nick Clegg, the former British deputy premier.

The Christchurch call meeting is to get underway around 1400 GMT and finish with a press conference by Ardern and Macron at 1600 GMT.

The Tech for Good meeting will also be attended by the CEO of ride hailing app Uber Dara Khosrowshahi, who will later have bilateral talks with Macron.

‘Make changes’

In an opinion piece in The New York Times over the weekend, Ardern said the Christchurch massacre underlined “a horrifying new trend” in extremist atrocities.

“It was designed to be broadcast on the internet. The entire event was livestreamed... the scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering,” she wrote.

Ardern said Facebook removed 1.5 million copies of the video within 24 hours of the attack, but she still found herself among those who inadvertently saw the footage when it auto-played on their social media feeds.

“(We’re) asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of live-streaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks,” she wrote in The Times.

New Zealand officials said she found a natural partner for the fight against online extremism in Macron, who has repeatedly stated that the status quo is unacceptable.

“Macron was one of the first leaders to call the prime minister after the attack, and he has long made removing hateful online content a priority,” New Zealand’s ambassador to France, Jane Coombs, told journalists on Monday.

“It’s a global problem that requires a global response,” she said.

A French presidential source said it was time for tech companies to “anticipate how their features will be exploited.”

Firms themselves will be urged to come up with concrete measures, the source said, for example by reserving live broadcasting to social media accounts whose owners have been identified.

https://www.france24.com/en/20190515-france-macron-ardern-paris-summit-online-extremism-facebook-twitter

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Tehran ready for any eventuality on nuclear issue: Iranian envoy to Britain

May 15, 2019

Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom has warned the country is totally ready for any eventuality, including a war with the United States, over its nuclear case.

Hamid Baeidinejad said on Tuesday that Iran still believed that the US way of handling Iran’s nuclear deal was a theatrical maneuver to pressure the country to accept Washington’s illegal demands.

However, he said, Tehran was fully ready to confront any military action by the US.

“While we have renounced any escalation in the region, I would assure you that Iranian armed forces are fully ready for any eventuality in the region, so they should not try to test the determination of Iran to confront any escalation in the region,” Baeidinejad said.

The comments came after reports suggested the White House planned to send more than 120,000 troops to the Middle East for a potential war with Iran.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the reports could be “fake” while insisted he had no immediate plan for launching a war on Iran.

Trump has been at odds with the US European allies since he pulled out last year of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear energy.

On Tuesday, a senior British military commander allied to Western forces fighting in the Middle East openly challenged claims by the US that Iran is posing a new threat to the current security situation in the region.

Major General Chris Ghika made the controversial remarks while speaking to reporters at the Pentagon.

Ghika, who serves as deputy commander of the US-led coalition which is allegedly fighting terrorists in Iraq and Syria, said the coalition was aware of Iran’s power and influence in countries like Iraq and Syria, adding, however, that there was no increased risk from Iran or its allied groups in those countries.

Ghika’s remarks came after US officials ordered partial evacuations of their embassy and a consulate in Iraq, citing intelligence that showed there could be a threat from Iran's allies in the Arab country

Iraqi officials have rejected the claims and doubted that the American intelligence about heightened risk was true.

Washington swiftly reacted to Ghika’s comments, insisting there was an increased risk from Iran.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596022/UK-envoy-Baeidinejad-Iran-US-potential-war

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Putin: Russia regrets seeing Iran nuclear deal unravel, done enough to save it

May 15, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Iran's nuclear program is most transparent and Moscow "regrets" to see the 2015 nuclear agreement unravel since America's decision to leave it in May 2018.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen on Wednesday, Putin aired his frustration with expectations from Moscow to save the landmark agreement, saying Russia was not "a fire brigade" to "rescue everything."

"We regret that the deal is falling apart," Putin said.

"After the signing of the agreement Iran was and still is the world's most verifiable and transparent country in this sense." "Iran is fulfilling all of its obligations," said Putin, citing the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tensions have sharply escalated between Washington and Tehran after Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal which removed sanctions in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program, leaving the fate of the deal at the hands of the remaining signatories -- the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

Trump's pressure on Iran to renegotiate a deal that would address its ballistic missile program and growing regional influence continued with the imposition of several rounds of sanctions and reached a point where American officials threatened to cut the country's oil exports to zero.

Running out of patience with the EU's inaction in the face of the growing US pressure, Iran reduced its commitments under the deal last week and warned the EU that it would consider leaving the accord after 60 days if its demands were not met.

'Russia not a fire brigade'

Putin on Wednesday urged Iran not to quit the agreement but added there was only so much his country could do to keep the deal intact.

"Russia is not a fire brigade," Putin said.

"We cannot rescue everything that does not fully depend on us. We've played our part," adding that Europe could do "nothing" to salvage the deal without the US.

Earlier in the day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed concern over rising tensions between Iran and Washington despite assurances from US Secretary of State Pompeo that the Trump administration was not seeking war.

"So far we notice the continued escalation of tensions around this subject," Peskov said.

"We are saddened to see the decisions taken by the Iranian side," Peskov added, while accusing Washington of provoking Iran.

Pompeo met Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday and assured the Russian head of state that country did not want war with Iran even though the Pentagon has recently dispatched an aircraft carrier and a number of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers to the Middle East.

"There were no assurances from Pompeo," Peskov said. "And one can hardly talk about some sort of assurances."

On Sunday, talk of war was pushed up another notch after unknown assailants targeted four vessels, including two tankers from Saudi Arabia,  off the United Arab emirates in mysterious acts of "sabotage."

Washington has since accused Tehran of planning "imminent" attacks in the region. On Wednesday, the US ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and consulate in Erbil.

Iran, however, has dismissed the US accusations and advised Persian Gulf neighbors to stay vigilant amid plots by "foreign players" and "ill-wishers" to cause tension in the region.

Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei ruled out the possibility of war on Tuesday, asserting Washington knows engaging in such a conflict would not be in its interest.

“The Iranian nation’s definite option will be resistance in the face of the US, and in this confrontation, the US would be forced into a retreat,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “Neither we nor they, who know war will not be in their interest, are after war.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596048/Putin-Russia-fire-brigade-regret-Iran-nuclear-deal-unraveling

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Merkel: We have common interests with Turkey

Ayhan Simsek  

16.05.2019

BERLIN

Chancellor Angela Merkel has underlined strategic importance of Turkey for Germany Friday, despite persistent political differences between Berlin and Ankara.

“Our political values differ in many areas and yet we have common interests,” Merkel said in an interview with the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.

She highlighted Turkey’s important role for a political solution in Syria and in fight against terrorism, as areas where both countries share common interests.

“Foreign policy is always conducted as a mixture of values and interests, and one also needs to find the right balance here,” she said, dismissing criticism by German opposition parties about her government’s Turkey policy.

Talks for Turkey’s EU membership

Asked about Ankara’s stalled EU membership bid, Merkel expressed ongoing scepticism about a full membership perspective to Turkey.

“The current developments after the local elections do not make it more likely that Turkey will join the European Union,” she said, adding that she has always been sceptical about a full membership perspective, but favored “special relations” between the EU and Turkey.

However, Merkel also supported the continuation of accession talks in an open-ended way, as this was promised to Turkey in 2005, before her Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) came to power in Germany.

Turkey’s EU membership process has long been a divisive issue in German politics, as Social Democrats have backed a full membership perspective but Christian Democrats favored a special partnership with Turkey.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/merkel-we-have-common-interests-with-turkey/1479445

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Turkey urges picking up stalled EU membership talks

Zehra Nur Düz 

15.05.2019

Turkey is more than a strategic partner for the EU, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated in an article he wrote for Politico, a prestigious American magazine.

“Economic, political, security and identity-related matters have demonstrated that Turkey is more than a strategic partner for the EU,” Cavusoglu wrote in the article published on Tuesday.

He shared his views on the history of EU-Turkey relations and negotiation chapters.

“Major turning points in recent history -- including the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the Arab Spring, the global financial crisis and the refugee crisis -- have repeatedly proven the strategic importance of the Turkey-EU relationship.”

He said that Turkey-EU relations were overshadowed thrice; in the aftermath of a coup in the 80s, the exclusion of Turkey from the fifth enlargement wave of EU in the 90s, and, most recently, the 2016 coup bid in Turkey.

Underlining that each time the relationship showed resilience against interruptions and found a way out, Cavusoglu said that today Turkey finds itself in a similar unpromising situation.

Cavusoglu expressed his strong belief that once again Turkey will manage to come to agreement with the EU to put Turkey’s EU process back on track.

He asserted three strong reasons to believe so.

Leaving behind difficult times

First of all, he stressed, Turkey is leaving behind difficult times that followed the 2016 defeated coup which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

“As a founding member of the Council of Europe, Turkey has carried out its post-coup measures in line with the rule of law and international norms."

He said those who criticized Turkey on the measures taken miss the point that this was not a simple political matter but an existential issue for Turkish democracy.

He said the EU membership process is their top agenda.

In this regard, the 100-day action plan announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan includes measures on Chapter 23 and 24 of the accession negotiations which deal with justice, judiciary and fundamental rights.

"Despite all the challenges in striking a balance between freedom and security in one of the world’s most unstable regions, Turkey has been relentlessly seeking to consolidate its democracy, as the Turkish nation deserves the highest standards,” Cavusoglu said.

He also emphasized that Turkey has adopted more than 2,000 pieces of legislation in line with the EU acquis in the last decade -- despite the scourge of terrorism, heavy burdens of irregular migration and a bloody coup attempt.

Underlining that the fundamentals of the post-war order are shaking, Cavusoglu said: “Assertive unilateralism is replacing rule-based multilateralism, and destabilizing developments on a wide range of issues -- including regional politics, trade, environment and security -- are harming the interests of the EU and Turkey alike.”

He stressed the common stance of EU and Turkey on critical matters including the Palestinian issue and Iran nuclear deal.

Cavusoglu also underlined EU’s support for the robust diplomatic efforts of Turkey, particularly for the protection of civilians in Syria.

“In the face of increasing volatilities, Turkey and the EU have much work to do for the security and stability of our Continent and beyond."

‘EU needs Turkey’

He stressed Turkey’s meaningful contributions to the EU in the areas of security threats, irregular migration, aging societies, economic dynamism, soft power, social security and energy security.

“By hosting more than 4 million refugees and halting the flow of thousands via the Aegean Sea, Turkey has prevented a major humanitarian crisis in Europe,” he said.

On the fight against terrorism, he praised Turkey’s position as the leading country among coalition members that fight Daesh on the ground.

Cavusoglu called on his colleagues in Brussels and in the EU’s national capitals to return to the spirit of the 1999 Helsinki meeting of the European Council in which Turkey became an official candidate and the EU became a serious anchor.

“We should restart the accession negotiations as they form the backbone of our relationship."

He also urged EU to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/turkey-urges-picking-up-stalled-eu-membership-talks/1479349

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Germany slams US pressure campaign against Iran

Ayhan Şimşek 

15.05.2019

BERLIN

Germany’s foreign minister has sharply criticized the U.S. administration’s recent escalation of tensions with Iran, warning that this policy might trigger a military conflict in the region.

“A maximum pressure campaign would increase the risk of an accidental encounter. The recent developments in the region, sabotage of oil tankers or pipelines, show that this risk is concrete and apparent,” Heiko Maas said on Wednesday, during a parliamentary debate on Iran.

Maas said European foreign ministers conveyed their concerns about rising tensions with Iran, during their meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Monday.

“We must and we will do everything possible to prevent a military escalation,” he said.

Germany’s top diplomat reaffirmed EU’s continued commitment to the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, stressing once again that it provides the best way for a peaceful solution.

He also called on Tehran to fully comply with the landmark nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran must continue to implement its commitments under the agreement. They should not expect any discount or compromise from us, from the EU. This would not happen,” he stressed.

World powers had agreed in 2015 to lift economic sanctions imposed on Iran in return for Tehran agreeing to limit its nuclear activity to peaceful and civilian purposes.

The agreement was signed between Iran and Russia, China, France, the U.K., and the U.S., plus Germany.

U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal last year, accusing Iran of cheating on the agreement.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/germany-slams-us-pressure-campaign-against-iran/1479145

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South Asia

 

At least 15 militants killed in E. Afghan province

2019-05-14

GHAZNI, Afghanistan, May 14 (Xinhua) -- At least 15 Taliban militants have been killed, five wounded and three others arrested in eastern Afghan province of Ghazni, the military said Tuesday.

"Afghan Special Operations Forces conducted operations in Shely locality of Andar district and Shinkai area of Gelan district on Monday. The security forces received hostile fire during the mission and returned fire, killing 13 enemy combatants," the army Corps 203 Tandar based in the region said in a statement.

Three suspected militants were arrested and six vehicles and eight motorcycles were destroyed by the security forces in the raids in the restive province, 125 km south of the country's capital Kabul, according to the statement.

In addition, one militant was killed and five others wounded after NATO-led coalition forces launched an airstrike in Shaleez locality of Ghazni, the statement added.

One militant was killed following an engagement between army personnel and militants in Tawhid Abad, an area on the outskirts of the provincial capital Ghazni city.

In a separate incident, one civilian was killed in a landmine explosion in Sadokhil area of Muqar district of Ghazni, according to the statement.

Fighting rages across the war-torn country and clashes between security forces and Taliban have been continuing in at least 25 out of the country's 34 provinces since early April when Taliban launched a yearly rebel offensive.

Fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters often gets intense in spring and summer as the seasons are locally branded as the fighting time of year.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-05/14/c_138057598.htm

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7 Taliban militants killed in Ghazni and Zabul airstrikes

15 May 2019 0

At least 7 Taliban militants were killed in separate airstrikes conducted in the past 24 hours in southern Zabul and south-eastern Ghazni provinces.

“Airstrikes were conducted in Ghazni district killing 3 Taliban fighters and wounding one other,” the informed military sources said Wednesday.

The sources further added that airstrikes were also conducted in Now Bahar district of Zabul province killing 4 Taliban fighters.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the airstrikes so far.

Both Zabul and Ghazni are among the relatively volatile provinces in Southern and South-eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/7-taliban-militants-killed-in-ghazni-and-zabul-airstrikes-03982/

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Pakistani ISIS members and their family members surrender to Afghan armed forces

16 May 2019

Two members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group surrendered to Afghan forces in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

Provincial governor Shah Mahmood Miakhel told reporters that the two ISIS members are originally hailing from Punjab province of Pakistan.

Miakhel further added that the two ISIS members surrendered to Afghan forces together with their family members which include three women and nine children.

He also added that the two ISIS members surrendered to the Afghan forces one and half years after joining ISIS ranks and conducting terrorist related activities in Achin district.

This comes as numerous reports have emerged recently regarding the growing activities of Pakistani militants in Afghanistan.

At least 33 Pakistani nationals who were fighting in the ranks of Taliban were killed in South-eastern Ghazni province earlier this week.

The provincial government and police headquarters issued separate statements on Tuesday confirming that 42 militants including 33 Pakistanis were killed in latest operations which were conducted in Andar district.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/pakistani-isis-members-and-their-family-members-surrender-to-afghan-armed-forces-03992/

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Special Forces arrest suspected terrorist attack plotters in Kabul city

16 May 2019

At least four suspects have been arrested on charges of orchestrating terrorist attacks in capital Kabul, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said Thursday.

According to a statement released by MoI, the suspects were arrested during an operation of the Special Forces of Afghan National Police on Wednesday night.

The statement further added that the operation was conducted in the vicinity of 8th police district of the city.

The Ministry of Interior in another statement said a similar operation was conducted in the vicinity of Jalalabd city, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province.

According to a MoI, a suspect who was involved in orchestrating terrorist attacks was arrested during the same operation.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/special-forces-arrest-suspected-terrorist-attack-plotters-in-kabul-city-03991/

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Artillery, airstrikes pound Taliban positions along Ghazni-Paktia highway

16 May 2019

At least 20 militants were killed in a series of air and artillery strikes pounding Taliban positions along Ghazni-Paktia highway.

The provincial government media office in a statement said Wednesday at least four airstrikes and one artillery strike were carried out along the highway as part of Khalid-3 operations.

The statement further added that the Taliban positions were targeted in Arzoo and Shaliz areas located in the outskirts of Ghazni city.

The Khalid-3 operations are being conducted to clear which connects Ghazni with the south-eastern Paktika province, the statement said, adding that three motorcycles, a 82mm artillery, and Dshk machine gun were also destroyed during the operation.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/artillery-airstrikes-pound-taliban-positions-along-ghazni-paktia-highway-03990/

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Senators sponsor bill for 4000 visas for the Afghans who have helped U.S. forces

16 May 2019

A number of U.S. Senators have sponsored a new bill aiming to approve 4000 visas for the Afghan nationals who have helped the American forces and are now stranded amid fears of persecution by anti-government armed elements, it has been reported.

The 4000 Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) would be provided for the rest of the federal fiscal year ending on 30th of September, according to Reuters.

The bill has been sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Republican Senators Thom Tillis, Roger Wicker and Gory Garnder and Democrats Jack Reed, Richard Blumenthal and Tim Kaine.

The bill has also been supported by the top U.S. Commander Gen. Scott Miller who is also in command of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission.

“If the program is not fully resourced, our credibility and the sacrifices made by thousands of Afghans in support of Americans and our Coalition partners could be undermined,” Gen. Miller was quoted as saying by Reuters.

This comes as the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had earlier cut the number of U.S. visas provided to Afghans by 60 percent.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/senators-sponsor-bill-for-4000-visas-for-the-afghans-who-have-helped-u-s-forces-03989/

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Taliban commander, fighter killed in separate premature IED explosions

15 May 2019

A Taliban commander and a fighter of the group were killed in separate Improvised Explosive Device explosions which went off prematurely in northern Baghlan and central Logar provinces.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a statement said a local Taliban commander who was planting an improvised explosive device in Dand-e-Shahabuddin area of Baghlan province was killed when the explosives went off prematurely.

The statement further added that the incident took place at around 8pm local time on Wednesday night.

The ministry in a separate statement said a Taliban fighter was killed as he was transferring an improvised explosive device in Kharwar district of Logar province.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the incidents so far.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/taliban-commander-fighter-killed-in-separate-premature-ied-explosions-03983/

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Suicide bomber shot dead before storming government compound in Wardak

15 May 2019

A suicide bomber was shot dead before he manages to target the district administrative compound in Sayedabad district of Maidan Wardak province.

“Afghan National Police gunned down a suicide bomber who had attempted to storm Sayed Abad district headquarters but before reaching to his target he was identified and killed,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the incident so far.

Maidan Wardak is among the relatively volatile provinces in central parts of Afghanistan.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/suicide-bomber-shot-dead-before-storming-government-compound-in-wardak-03981/

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North America

 

Rescued U.S. hostage was due to be given to Al Qaeda-linked Katibat Macina

By Saphora Smith

May 14, 2019

The American hostage freed by a pre-dawn rescue operation in Burkina Faso last week would have been transferred to an Al Qaeda-linked group had the high-risk raid not occurred, according to French authorities.

Two French tourists, a South Korean national and the U.S. woman were being transported north toward Mali when French special forces stormed their captors' hideout. Two French naval commandos were killed in the mission, which was authorized by President Emmanuel Macron.

While the identity of their captors remains unclear, the hostages were destined to be transferred to a group known as Katibat Macina, French Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre said.

The risk of them ending up with an extremist group in Mali — which would have made efforts to free them impossible — triggered the operation early Friday, Lecointre added.

What is Katibat Macina?

Katibat Macina — which is also known as the Macina Liberation Front — is a Malian terrorist group that is linked to Al Qaeda, according to Human Rights Watch.

Led by Malian preacher Amadou Kouffa, Katibat Macina is particularly active in the central Malian region of Mopti close to the border with Burkina Faso, according to Andrew Lebovich, an expert in the region and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Lebovich said it has ties to Ansar ul Islam, a jihadist group that was initially active in northern Burkina Faso but that has rapidly expanded.

Jacob Zenn, a fellow on African affairs at the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation research institute, said Katibat Macina was essentially a Mali-based outgrowth of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

"As they have extended toward the Burkina Faso border, they have basically formed a Burkinabe subgroup of themselves called Ansar ul Islam," he added.

The group aims to gradually set up an Islamic caliphate in the region, according to Zenn.

In 2017, the group merged with four other Malian Al Qaeda-linked groups under the name Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin or "Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims," according to Human Rights Watch.

Who were their captors?

While French authorities have said the captors wanted to transfer the hostages to Katibat Macina, they have not given any specific information about who kidnapped the foreign nationals in the first place.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has said only that there are "two principal terrorist movements that operate in this zone — one is affiliated with Al Qaeda, and the other with the Islamic State."

Analysts said the nature of militant organizations in the region made it difficult to pin down the culprits.

"Groups sometimes share fighters or cooperate, or at a minimum, can occupy territory in proximity to each other without causing problems between the groups," Lebovich said.

"The way you assess who is responsible is by looking at who’s been operating there and what the tactics were like," Zenn added.

Four of the kidnappers were killed and two escaped, according to the French military chief.

Who is the American hostage?

Days after the rescue operation, little is known about the American woman who was freed.

As the two French citizens and the South Korean woman were flown back to Paris, the American was nowhere to be seen. It is also unclear where the U.S. woman went missing, but Lecointre said she had been held for 28 days.

The two rescued Frenchmen were kidnapped May 1 while on safari in the Pendjari National Park wildlife reserve in Benin. Their guide was later discovered dead.

Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore said on Twitter on Saturday that he spent time with the three other freed hostages but did not mention the U.S. citizen.

"All our thoughts go to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers who lost their lives to free us from this hell," ex-hostage Laurent Lassimouillas told reporters as he met with Kabore.

The U.S. Department of Defense has told NBC News that the U.S. woman is in her 60s but did not give any further details.

The State Department confirmed a U.S. citizen was rescued but said "due to privacy considerations, we have no further information to share."

French authorities have said they had no idea the American and South Korean hostages were also being held when the nighttime raid was launched.

"We were not aware of their presence," French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told a news conference.

Contacts with the United States and South Korea "show that these countries were probably not aware of the presence of their two nationals on Burkina Faso territory," she added.

Parly called the rescue "an operation of rare difficulty" that grew more complex with the discovery of the American and the South Korean.

Macron attended a ceremony in Paris paying tribute to slain commandos Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello on Tuesday.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/rescued-u-s-hostage-was-due-be-given-al-qaeda-n1004851

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US orders departure of ‘non-emergency government employees’ from Iraq

15 May 2019

The US has ordered the departure of ‘non-emergency US government employees’ from Iraq, the US Department of State said in a statement on Wednesday.

Referring to the embassy and the US consulate in Erbil, a statement by the US embassy in Baghdad said “normal visa services at both posts will be temporarily suspended. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to US citizens in Iraq.”

The statement recommended those affected “depart by commercial transportation as soon as possible”.

In a level four travel advisory, which read “do not travel”, the state department cited “terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict” as the reason behind the decision.

“US citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians,” the statement read.

They added that normal visa services will temporarily be suspended at both posts in Baghdad and Erbil.

They also said that US citizens should not travel through Iraq to Syria “to engage in armed conflict, where they would face extreme personal risks (kidnapping, injury, or death) and legal risks (arrest, fines, and expulsion)”.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/15/US-orders-departure-of-non-emergency-govt-employees-from-Iraq.html

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Trump says Iran ‘will want to talk soon’

16 May 2019

President Donald Trump on Wednesday predicted that Iran will “soon” want to negotiate and denied any discord in the White House over moves that critics say could lead to war in the Middle East.

“Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision -- it is a very simple process,” Trump tweeted. “I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

• 15h

The Fake News Washington Post, and even more Fake News New York Times, are writing stories that there is infighting with respect to my strong policy in the Middle East. There is no infighting whatsoever....

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

....Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision - it is a very simple process. All sides, views, and policies are covered. I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.

62.5K

12:40 AM - May 16, 2019

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Trump blasted media reports about turmoil in the White House over a series of steps taken by the administration to up pressure on Iran, saying "there is no infighting whatsoever."

The United States on Wednesday ordered non-essential staff to leave its embassy in neighboring Iraq, claiming there is an "imminent" threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/16/Trump-says-Iran-will-want-to-talk-soon-.html

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Trump denies any White House discord over Middle East moves

16 May 2019

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday predicted that Iran will “soon” want to negotiate and denied any discord in the White House over moves that critics say could lead to war in the Middle East.

“The Fake News Washington Post, and even more Fake News New York Times, are writing stories that there is infighting with respect to my strong policy in the Middle East. There is no infighting whatsoever,” Trump tweeted.

“Different opinions are expressed and I make a decisive and final decision -- it is a very simple process,” Trump said. “I’m sure that Iran will want to talk soon.”

The United States on Wednesday ordered non-essential staff to leave its embassy in neighboring Iraq, claiming there is an “imminent” threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias.

Ten days ago, Trump also ordered an aircraft carrier and nuclear-capable bomber planes to deploy to the Gulf.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Baghdad last Tuesday and met with Iraqi officials after voicing US concern about Iraqi sovereignty due to increasing Iranian activity in the region.

According to a BBC Arabic report, Pompeo handed over a memory stick to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi containing evidence of Iran’s plans to attack US interests in Iraq through its proxies in the country.

Democrats in Congress demanded that the Trump administration brief them on what it considers to be the Iran threat, warning that the US legislature has not approved military action against Tehran.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/05/16/Trump-denies-any-White-House-discord-over-Middle-East-moves.html

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Bolton hasn’t yet learned his lesson from Iraq War: US 2020 candidate

May 15, 2019

US national security adviser John Bolton has not yet learned lessons from the country’s invasion of Iraq in 2001, says Senator Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont Democratic senator made the comments in an interview with CNN on Wednesday amid the US escalation of tensions with Tehran.

The anti-war lawmaker, who is running to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, called the hawkish politician "one of the architects” of the Iraq War, noting that “we should have learned the lessons of war in Iraq and apparently John Bolton has not.”

‘Don’t listen to the mustache!’

Trump’s military confrontation with Iran could highly reduce his chances of reelection in 2020 as he may lose favorability among his anti-war base.

Trump could lose the 2020 bid over listening to Bolton, suggested Hessamoddin Ashena, advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Trump may finally dismiss the war hawk as he is busy escalating tensions not only with Iran but also with North Korea and Venezuela.

Hesameddin Ashena

@hesamodin1

@realDonaldTrump : You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!

291

7:13 PM - May 14, 2019

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Can US win war with Iran in ‘two strikes’?

On the other hand, Washington continues its empty threats against Iran amid the Trump administration’s psychological war.

Senator Tom Cotton, another Republican war hawk, also claimed Wednesday that the US will manage to win a war with Iran in "two strikes."

"Yes, two strikes… The first strike and the last strike," claimed the Arkansas lawmaker. "I don’t advocate military action against Iran. I’m simply delivering the message that if Iran were to attack the United States, it would be a grave miscalculation on their part and there would be a furious response."

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596011/Bolton-is-yet-to-learn-his-lesson-from-Iraq-War

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Lebanon leader, US official discuss border demarcation

Wassim Saif al-Din  

15.05.2019

BEIRUT

David Satterfield, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday to discuss Lebanon’s land and sea borders with Israel.

“Lebanon… believes the demarcation of its land and sea borders [with Israel] will contribute to stability in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” Aoun told Satterfield during the meeting, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA).

Aoun also reportedly urged the U.S. to “help realize this objective by promoting respect for Lebanon's land and sea borders, along with its right to explore for oil and gas in the exclusive economic zone”.

According to the NNA, consultations between the U.S. and Lebanon regarding the latter’s southern maritime border are set to continue.

In April, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab toured areas of Southern Lebanon near Israeli-occupied territories, after which he declared that his country would “never surrender one inch of land”.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/lebanon-leader-us-official-discuss-border-demarcation/1479167

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Arab World

 

Syria TV says 6 killed in insurgent attack on displaced camp

May 14, 2019

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian state TV says six people were killed when insurgents lobbed missiles into a government-controlled displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwest.

Al-Ikhbariya TV said the dead from Tuesday’s attack on the Nayrab camp southeast of Aleppo city included two children.

An Al-Ikhbariya journalist in Aleppo said the missiles landed around sunset, when Muslims observing the holy month of Ramadan break their fast.

The camp houses displaced Syrians and Palestinian refugees who have been living in Syria.

The attack on Nayrab comes amid an unprecedented escalation between the government and insurgents who have a last foothold in northwestern Syria, adjacent to Aleppo city. Government troops have been advancing on the insurgent stronghold that is home to 3 million people, gaining ground on its southern edge and displacing tens of thousands.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syria-tv-says-6-killed-in-insurgent-attack-on-displaced-camp/2019/05/14/38ee56f2-7674-11e9-a7bf-c8a43b84ee31_story.html?utm_term=.209809cd779b

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Islamic State militants kill two civilians in Iraq’s Diyala

by  Mohamed Mostafa

May 14, 2019

Diyala (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State militants killed two tribesmen in in an attack in Diyala province late Monday, local media reported Tuesday as the country struggles against remnant extremist cells.

The attack, the second of its kind in Habib Abdallah village the town of Khanaqin, left a father and his son dead, according to Shafaaq News.

Iraq declared victory over Islamic State militants late 2017, but continues to sustain occasional attacks by the extremist group against civilians and security forces.

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/islamic-state-militants-kill-two-civilians-in-iraqs-diyala/

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Iraqi security arrest Daesh tax collector, wife in Mosul

by  Mohamed Mostafa

May 14, 2019

Mosul (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi security forces arrested a Daesh (Islamic State) member and his wife who had used to act as tax collectors for the extremist group in Mosul in Mosul, north of the country, local media reported.

BasNews website quoted Nineveh police Captain, Mohamed Jassem, saying the pair was arrested as per a tip-off, and were being referred to interrogators preparing to send them to justice.

Islamic State declared in 2014 its self-styled “caliphate” rule from Mosul, before Iraqi forces recaptured the city three years later. Iraqi security continues to hunt for the extremist group’s vestiges across their former strongholds.

Full report at:

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/iraqi-security-arrest-daesh-tax-collector-wife-in-mosul/

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Suspected ISIS attack leaves two Kurdish civilians dead in disputed Khanaqin

May 16, 2019

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An armed group suspected of being Islamic State militants attacked the villages of Ahmed-Taher and Habib in the disputed Khanaqin district late on Monday, killing two Kurdish civilians.

According to Jaafar Mustafa, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) office in Khanaqin, one of the victims, Dilar Najim, came across the armed group while he was driving his vehicle.

The militants shot Najim and burned his car, Mustafa told Kurdistan 24, adding the victim had called home for help after he was injured but was shot dead in cold blood shortly after. 

Mustafa said the second victim was Najim’s father who had rushed to the scene in an attempt to rescue his son, but the armed group killed him as well.

Over the past few months, Islamic State militants have carried out insurgency attacks in villages far from the city, but have now gotten much closer to Khanaqin’s center, according to Mustafa.

Related Article: Securing Qarachokh Mountain will end ISIS attacks in Makhmour: Peshmerga Commander

In a statement on Tuesday, a tribal leader in Khanaqin said Monday night’s incident proves the security situation in the city and its surrounding areas is deteriorating. He warned that if the Peshmerga forces do not return to the district, the attacks, kidnappings, and security gaps in the area will remain.

Full report at:

https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/5680f59c-c8cf-4a9f-bc55-a629b3f23fb8

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UAE court upholds sentence for man promoting terror groups

May 14, 2019

Abu Dhabi: The State Security Court of the Federal Supreme Court on Monday upheld a five-year jail sentence of a man for seeking to damage the reputation of the UAE and promoting terrorist groups.

The defendant, who is a 21-year-old citizen of Comoros Islands, was also fined Dh1 million.

He was convicted of seeking to damage the UAE’s reputation and the relationship of the country with its neighbours by publishing false reports and information on Twitter.

The man was found guilty of swearing allegiance to the terrorist organisation Daesh on Twitter.

He was also convicted of publishing material and video clips on social media to promote the terrorist ideology of Daesh and urge young people to join it.

The court confiscated his electronic devices and ordered him to pay all judicial costs.

Under the UAE cybercrimes law, an imprisonment period not more than five years, and a fine between Dh500,000 and Dh1 million will be handed down to whoever publishes information on the computer network or though information technology means with the aim to incite hate.

For first-time offenders, the court may rule for the accused to be placed under electronic probation, and prevented from using information technology means during a period not more than the maximum penalty prescribed.

Full report at:

https://gulfnews.com/uae/crime/uae-court-upholds-sentence-for-man-promoting-terror-groups-1.63933357

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Defense Ministry Document Reveals Saudis' Panic after Yemeni Attacks

May 15, 2019

The document released by SaudiLeaks website is a letter signed by Colonel Mohammed bin Nasser al-Harbi, a commander of the Saudi Ground Forces in al-Sharqiyeh region, addressed to his deputy to put all forces on alert in their mission zones within the next 72 hours.

It added that the Saudi commander has ordered the National Guard Forces to be dispatched to al-Sharqiyeh region to protect the oil wells, refineries and ports where the country's crude is exported to overseas destinations. He has also cancelled all leave of absence of all commanders and forces.

The report was released a day after Seven drones of Yemen's armed forces carried out airstrikes on vital oil facilities in Yanbu region after flying deep into Saudi Arabia's airspace on Tuesday, halting the operation of the strategic East-West oil pipeline that pumps some 3 million barrels of oil per day from the Eastern province to the Western parts of the country.

"The extensive military operation was conducted in retaliation for Saudi Arabia’s aggression and siege of the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state," a Yemeni military source told Al-Masirah TV on Tuesday.

The official stated that Yemeni fighters stand ready “to execute more significant and tough strikes as long as the siege continues”.

Al-Alam news network, meanwhile, reported that the goals have likely been oil-related and economic targets in the Red Sea port of Yanbu in the Al-Madinah province in Western Saudi Arabia.

Citing Yemen's defense ministry, Al-Mayadeen TV Chanel reported that seven drones penetrated deep into Saudi Arabia and targeted large-scale vital facilities.

Hours later, member of the political bureau of Yemen's Ansarullah movement Mohammad al-Bukhaiti told Al-Jazeera Arabic that the attacks occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning, saying he expects the targets to be oil installations, but stated that he had no specific information on the details of the strikes.

Hours later, Saudi Arabia's Presidency of State Security confirmed the report of the Yemeni drone attacks on the kingdom facilities, saying two oil pumping stations belonging to Aramco company in the provinces of Al-Duwadimi and Al-Afif "were partially targeted".

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih also noted that fire broke out at one station between 6:00 am and 6:30 am local time on Tuesday, saying, however, it caused "limited damage".

He added that Aramco has stopped the pumping operation, where the damage is being assessed, to repair the station and restore the situation to the normal state.

But later in the day, Yemen's Al-Masirah TV released details of the airstrikes, saying that the drones bombed Yanbu oil facilities that is home to some 40 percent of Saudi crude production.

Yemen's Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Sari' in an official statement released on Tuesday afternoon said, "Seven drones targeted Saudi Arabia's oil pumping facilities in Yanbu region and disrupted the pipeline oil transfer completely."

"We have targeted a pipeline that transfers 3 million barrels of crude per day," he added, vowing that the Yemeni army will continue to target strategic facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Later reports disclosed that following the drone strikes on the strategic Yanbu oil pumping facilities, the two oil pumping stations in the provinces of Al-Duwadimi and Al-Afif had also been damaged in separate attacks and were forced to cease pumping operations.

Two pumping stations send Saudi oil produced from its oil-rich Eastern (Al-Sharqiyah) province to the port of Yanbu in the West. The East-West pipeline is of strategic value to Saudi Arabia's oil exports.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement. The Riyadh-led aggression has so far killed at least 20,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Despite Riyadh's claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.

France, the United States, the Uinted Kingdom and some other Western countries have faced criticisms over arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aggression against Yemen has affected 28 million people and caused what the United Nations calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world". According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980225000847

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Aleppo: Syrian Army Gives Crushing Response to Tahrir Al-Sham's Attacks on Civilian Camp

May 15, 2019

The Tahrir al-Sham terrorists stationed in Western Aleppo launched several attacks on al-Nayrab Refugee Camp in Aleppo which resulted in the death of eight people, including several children and injury of 14 others.

Meantime, several civilians were killed in Tahrir al-Sham's mortar attacks on al-Jamileh district in the center of Aleppo city.

A battlefield source, meantime, pointed to the spread of mortar and rocket attacks in the towns of Nubl and al-Zahra in Northwestern Aleppo, and said that in response the Syrian Army's missile, artillery and tanks units pounded the military positions and movements of the terrorists in all battlefronts of Western and Northern Aleppo, including the towns of Kafar Hamreh, Haritan and Andan Ma'areh al-Artiq.

The source reiterated that several military bases and positions of the terrorists in Haritan and Kafar Hamreh were destroyed in the Syrian Army attacks and all terrorists inside them were killed.

In a relevant development last week, the Syrian Army dispatched massive military equipment and a large number of troops to Northern Aleppo in a bid to reinforce positions in the region after an attack by the Turkish Army and its allied militants was fended off.

The Syrian Army sent a massive military convoy comprising over 200 government troops and military vehicles carrying military equipment from al-Hamdaniyeh region in Aleppo to the town of Ahras and Tal Raf'at in Northern Aleppo, reinforcing their military positions, battlefield sources in Northern Aleppo said on Tuesday.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980225000514

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Several Ankara-Backed Militants Killed, Injured in Kurdish Offensive in Aleppo

May 15, 2019

The Kurdish-language Hawar News website quoted Afrin Liberation Fighters as announcing that they killed three Ankara-backed militants and injured seven others in a bomb attack on the so-called Military Police affiliated to Ankara near Jandaris Garage in the center of Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo.

Meantime, the Kurdish fighters in a separate operation targeted and pounded a center of Jbahat al-Shamia in the town of al-Seyyed Ali in Ma'are region in Northern Aleppo, killing three terrorists and injuring five others.

In a relevant development on Saturday, Kurdish-language media reported that a number of Turkish Army soldiers and allied militants have been killed in military operations by the Kurdish fighters in Aleppo in recent days.

The Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that the Kurdish 'Afrin Liberation Forces' pounded a gathering of the Turkish Army soldiers in the village of Kimar in Shirawa region of Afrin in Northwestern Aleppo, killing two Turkish soldiers and injuring four others as well as destroying their military vehicle.

Meantime, the Kurdish fighters also destroyed a drilling vehicle of the Ankara-backed militants, while it was building a road block in Kimar town in Afrin, destroying a military vehicle and killing three Ankara-backed militants.

The Kurdish fighters also targeted and pounded a military vehicle carrying militants of Jbahat al-Shamia in Kaljabrin in Izaz region in Northwestern Aleppo, destroying a vehicle and injuring three terrorists.

In a relevant development in late February, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) conducted a military operation against Turkish Army and its allied militants in the surrounding areas of Manbij city in Northeastern Aleppo, killing a number of the Ankara-backed militants and that country's soldiers in Afrin region.

Hawar News reported that clashes intensified between members of Al-Bab Military Council affiliated to the SDF and Ankara-backed Euphrates Shield militants in Qart-Viran, Karhiuk and Kavkoli regions West of Manbij city and East of al-Bab city.

It said that the clashes broke out after the Ankara-backed terrorists' artillery units pounded the SDF-controlled areas in the region.

Hawar News reiterated that sporadic clashes still continue between the two sides in Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo.

It said that at least three Ankara-backed militants were killed and five others were severely wounded in a battle between the two sides in a region between Basouteh and Karzileh villages in Afrin region.

Full report at:

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980225000553

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Syria to exhaust all means to retake Israeli-occupied Golan: Foreign Ministry

May 16, 2019

Syria has censured Israel’s land theft and repressive measures against Syrians in the occupied side of the Golan Heights as a flagrant violation of international law, saying that Damascus reserves the right to re-establish control over the occupied land.

In letters to the UN chief and the president of the Security Council on Wednesday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that the occupied Golan is an integral part of Syria and that the Arab country would exhaust all available means to regain control of the land because it is an “eternal right that can’t be prescribed.”

The letter said that the Tel Aviv regime recently forced the Syrian citizens to register the lands they had inherited from their ancestors at the department of properties affiliated to the occupation authorities in order for Israeli ownership documents to be issued for them instead.

Those areas include the farms which extend between Ayn al-Rihan and Sa’ar river regions, the letter added.

The ministry further called on the UN Security Council to take immediate measures “to preserve international peace and security by obliging Israel to stop its illegal settlement policies and repressive measures against our people in the occupied Syrian Golan, which constitute a flagrant violation” of international law.

It hailed Syrian people for “their resistance against the Israeli occupation and their rejection of the decision to annex the Golan to the occupation entity.”

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/16/596075/Syria-UN-Israel-Golan

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4 killed as anti-graft protest rocks Iraq's Najaf

May 16, 2019

At least four people have been killed in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf during an anti-corruption protest called by a political movement led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Reports said that Wednesday’s demonstration turned violent after security guards outside the al-Bashir shopping mall, owned by a former Sadrist, opened fir on the crowd.

The demonstrators, in response, set fire to the mall.

Najaf’s Hakim Hospital said that the clashes had left four people dead and 17 others injured.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s security media cell said, “Security forces have arrested five guards of the mall who had opened fire on the protesters.”

The mall is owned by Jawad al-Garawi, who is said to have been expelled from the Sadrist movement’s ranks on graft charges.

Salih Mohammed al-Iraqi, a Sadrist movement leader, had called on the party's supporters to target corrupt businesses of individuals.

“If the corrupt want to return, we are standing in the way and we will prevail over them,” he said in a post on his Facebook page.

The political board of the Sadrist movement condemned “the use of armed force” for quelling “peaceful and civilized” protests.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/16/596085/Iraq-Najaf-Muqtada-Sadr

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Mideast

 

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Attack Saudi Oil Facilities, Escalating Tensions in Gulf

By Vivian Yee

May 14, 2019

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Yemen’s Houthi rebels carried out multiple drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities on Tuesday, a day after Saudi Arabia said two of its oil tankers had been damaged in an act of sabotage, ratcheting up tensions in the region.

A Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam, claimed responsibility for the drone strikes on Twitter, saying that they were a response to Saudi “aggression” and “genocide” in Yemen.

Although the Houthis are backed by Iran, it was unclear whether the attacks were related to increasing tensions between Iran and the United States and its allies in the Persian Gulf.

A total of four oil tankers were damaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday in what the Emirati government called acts of sabotage. Though little hard information has emerged about the attacks, American and Gulf suspicions have centered on Iran, in an area already jittery about the prospect of a violent clash with the republic.

The Trump administration has warned of planned aggression by Iran or its proxies, though it has not elaborated on that contention, and it has deployed military forces to the region.

But both sides said Tuesday that they were not looking for a war, even as the threats and counterthreats continued.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in comments carried on state television that “no war is going to happen,” The Associated Press reported.

“Neither we, nor they are seeking war,” he said. “They know that it is not to their benefit.”

And in a visit to Russia on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”

But the Trump administration has not ruled out further increasing the American military presence in the region.

Responding to a New York Times report that Pentagon officials were drawing up plans to deploy as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, Mr. Trump called it “fake news” and said that “we have not planned for that.”

“Hopefully we’re not going to have to plan for that,” he added. “And if we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

The four ships were damaged on Sunday in coastal waters near the Strait of Hormuz, the vital waterway to the Persian Gulf, through which much of the world’s oil flows.

The Saudi government said two of the ships were Saudi tankers, identified by industry officials as Al Marzoqah and the Amjad, and a Norwegian shipping company said another was one of its tankers, the Andrea Victory. The fourth was an Emirati tanker.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have said they were investigating the attacks.

A senior Defense Department official said Tuesday that based on a “holistic assessment,” the military believes that “Iran is likely” behind the tanker attacks. However American officials said there was no definitive evidence linking Iran or its proxies to the attacks.

Iran suggested Tuesday that the tanker attacks were a provocation intended to escalate tensions.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran said that it had “previously predicted that such actions would occur to create tensions in the region,” according to IRNA, a state news agency.

Speaking in New Delhi, he also warned of the danger posed by “extremist individuals in the U.S. government.”

Mr. Zarif and other Iranian officials have sought to portray President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, as a warmonger eager to push the two countries into conflict.

Mr. Pompeo said Tuesday that the United States was still trying to get more information about the attacks.

“We’re working diligently to get answers to what caused those ships to have the problems that they have today,” he said at a news conference in Sochi, Russia.

The attack on the Saudi oil facilities added a new element to the tensions.

A Houthi-run television station, Al Masirah, reported that seven drones had “targeted vital Saudi facilities.”

The Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, said the attacks on two pumping stations had caused “limited damage.” He said the government was shutting down a pipeline while it assessed the damage and made repairs.

“The Kingdom condemns this cowardly attack,” Mr. Falih said in a statement. “And this recent terrorist and sabotage act in the Arabian Gulf against vital installations not only targets the kingdom, but also targets the safety of the world’s energy supply and the global economy.”

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are fighting the Houthis in Yemen to restore the government that the Houthis ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The war in Yemen is viewed as another front in the regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia considers the Houthis an Iranian proxy. The Houthis receive support from Iran, but deny that they are an Iranian proxy.

The affected pipeline runs from the oil production areas in the eastern part of the country to the Red Sea in the West, where the Saudis maintain export facilities. Those facilities help ensure they can continue to export oil if they have difficulties doing so from the Persian Gulf.

Sadad I. Al-Husseni, a former executive vice president of Saudi Aramco, said the strikes did not pose a serious risk to the Saudi infrastructure.

“The facilities in the kingdom were designed at a time when there were wars going on in the Gulf,” he said. “So everything was redesigned and upgraded in order to take advantage or make allowances for the security aspects.”

Stanley Reed contributed reporting from London, and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/world/middleeast/saudi-oil-attack.html

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‘The body is completely empty’: Family of Palestinian who died in Turkish jail

16 May 2019

The brother of a Palestinian who died while in Turkish custody said that it was impossible for the family to perform another autopsy as “there is nothing left inside” the body.

“It is impossible to dissect the body again because there is nothing left inside, the body is completely empty. Even the tongue does not exist,” Zakaria Mubarak, Zaki Mubarak’s brother, told Al Arabiya from Cairo.

Last month, Turkey said that Mubarak, one of the two Palestinian men arrested on alleged espionage charges in April, died while in custody and called his death a suicide.

Mubarak’s family said they were skeptical of the suicide claims and called for an investigation into the matter.

“It is a horrible thing, the body showed signs of brutal torture and it was almost deformed. In fact, I was in shock and amazement. I did not even recognize my brother,” Zakaria said after receiving the body in Cairo. “His daughters were able to identify him through distinctive features,” he added.

The family has also called into question the coroner’s report from Istanbul, which was translated into three languages.

“The report contradicted itself. It stated that the result of death was natural but at the same time, it said that the cause of death was due to several injuries. International courts will review all documents,” Zakaria said.

According to the family, Mubarak’s body has been fully photographed in order to provide further evidence of torture.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2019/05/16/-The-body-is-completely-empty-Family-of-Palestinian-who-died-in-Turkish-jail.html

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Resistance fighters never give up weapons, never normalize with Israel: Hamas

May 15, 2019

The Palestinian Hamas movement has described its resistance fighters’ weapons as a red line, strongly denouncing attempts by a number of Arab states and Persian Gulf kingdoms to normalize diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime after years of clandestine contacts.

Hamas, in a statement released on Wednesday in commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the Nakba Day categorically rejected all projects aimed at the liquidation of the Palestinian cause or undermining the rights of the Palestinian people, in particular US President Donald Trump’s controversial proposal for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, dubbed “Deal of the Century”.

The rallies were organized to mark Nakba Day -- or the Day of Catastrophe --the anniversary of the day when, back in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly evicted from their homeland and Israel proclaimed existence.

Speaking in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on April 16, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh lashed out at Trump’s initiative, asserting that it was “born dead.”

Shtayyeh noted that negotiations with the US were useless in the wake of the country’s relocation of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem al-Quds, which Palestinians consider the capital city of their future state.

The United States Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt told Fox News television news network in an interview published on May 11 that Trump’s “peace plan” would not be unveiled until at least after the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, formation of a new Israeli administration and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, known as the Feast of Weeks in English, which ends on the evening of June 10.

He emphasized that the so-called deal of the century has been worked out in a way that it would not endanger Israel, saying, “One thing we won’t do, the Trump administration won’t compromise on Israel’s security.”

Greenblatt then blasted the Palestinian leadership’s decision to dismiss the deal before even seeing it, claiming that he was “hopeful for the sake of the Palestinian people that they get a chance to see it.”

Hamas then called upon the Palestinian people to resist the Tel Aviv regime’s occupation by all means, primarily armed resistance, which is a strategic option to protect the Palestinian nation and restore their rights.

“The weapons at the hands of resistance fighters are a red line, and our people are entitled to work on their development. The process of managing the (anti-Israel) resistance front falls within the framework of countering the Israeli occupation in a way that disrupts the Tel Aviv regime’s equations and guarantees the Palestinian nation’s interests,” the Palestinian resistance movement pointed out.

The statement also roundly dismissed all forms of political, cultural and commercial normalization with Israel.

“Such attempts amount to a stab in the back of the Palestinian nation and a violation of their rights. They also encourage the Israeli enemy to commit more crimes and violations against our people and holy sites (in occupied lands),” it read.

Hamas finally called for a mass and effective participation in all events marking the Nakba Day as well as anti-occupation protests along the fence separating the besieged coastal enclave and the Israeli-occupied territories.

Palestinians have held weekly rallies along the Gaza border to protest the siege on the enclave and demand the right for refugees to return to their homes they fled during the 1948 creation of Israel.

More than 270 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018. Over 16,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, 2018, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided with a US decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

On June 13, 2018, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Turkey and Algeria, which condemned Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip.

The resolution, which had been put forward on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, garnered a strong majority of 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.

The resolution called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection, and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596026/Weapons-at-hands-of-resistance-fighters-red-line-normalization-with-Israel-stab-in-back-Hamas

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Iranian Guards commander: We are on cusp of full-scale confrontation with enemy

15 May 2019

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that they “are on the cusp of a full-scale confrontation with the enemy,” the Fars news agency reported.

Major General Hossein Salami, named head of the force last month, added: “This is a moment in history, because the enemy has stepped into the field of confrontation with us with all the possible capacity, is the most decisive moment of the Islamic revolution.”

The United States has sent further military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/15/Iranian-Guards-commander-We-are-on-cusp-of-full-scale-confrontation-with-enemy.html

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Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance: Iranian defense minister

15 May 2019

Iran will defeat the American and Israeli alliance, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Wednesday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“We will defeat the American-Zionist front,” he said.

“Iran has the highest level of defense-military preparedness to confront any type of threat and excessive demands,” he added.

The United States has sent further military forces to the Middle East, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials say are Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region.

Separately on Wednesday, a senior Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran was ready for all scenarios from “confrontation to diplomacy” but the United States could not afford another war in the Middle East.

Washington ordered the departure of non-emergency government employees from Iraq on Wednesday after repeated US expressions of concern about alleged danger posed by Iranian-backed forces.

Israel will stand with the United States to confront Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

“We are united in our desire to stop Iranian aggression,” he said.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/15/Iran-will-defeat-the-American-and-Israeli-alliance-Iranian-defense-minister.html

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Al-Jubeir: Houthi attack proves they are indivisible part of IRGC

16 May 2019

Yemen's Houthis are an indivisible part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and are subject to the IRGC’s orders, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, said on Thursday.

He added that this is confirmed by the Houthi targeting of facilities in the Kingdom.

In a series of tweets on his official account, al-Jubeir said that the Houthis prove that they implement Iran’s agenda "by sacrificing the need of the Yemeni people for the benefit of Iran".

Adel Aljubeir عادل الجبير

@AdelAljubeir

• 1h

1- The #Houthis confirm day after day that they implement #Iran’s agenda by sacrificing the need of the Yemeni people for the benefit of #Iran

Adel Aljubeir عادل الجبير

@AdelAljubeir

2- The Houthis are an indivisible part of #Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (#IRGC) and subject to the IRGC’s orders. This is confirmed by the #Houthis targeting facilities in the Kingdom

417

2:42 PM - May 16, 2019

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On Tuesday, the Houthi militias claimed responsibility for twin drone strikes on Saudi Arabia’s main East-West oil pipeline. Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the vital conduit for global oil supplies in case of a military confrontation with the United States.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/05/16/Al-Jubeir-Houthi-attack-proves-they-are-indivisible-part-of-IRGC.html

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Abdul-Malik al-Houthi: Military escalation will extend to depths of enemy states

16 May 2019

Yemen’s Houthi militias are developing more military capabilities, which have “proven their effectiveness”, but what’s to come is “bigger and greater”, the militias’ leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said in a recorded speech shared by al-Masirah TV on Wednesday.

“The fifth year (of war) is the year where there is more and more development of military capabilities. We do not need to explain the effectiveness of these capabilities- they have proven their importance and effectiveness. But what’s to come is bigger and greater, and we will leave the proof of that to the application and actual results,” al-Houthi said.

His comments came only a day after two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia were targeted by explosive-laden drones, an attack which the Houthi militias claimed. They were located in Saudi Arabia’s town of Al al-Duwadimi and the city of Afif.

The Kingdom, as well as several Arab countries, said that it was a “cowardly act of terror aimed at destruction”, and “a serious threat to the regional and international security, and the world economy.”

The militia-sponsored al-Masirah report stated that this was al-Houthi’s first television interview. Al-Houthi said that there is current production of weapons, but the details of this are secret.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/05/16/Abdul-Malik-al-Houthi-Military-escalation-will-extend-to-depths-of-enemy-states.html

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6 civilians killed in Saudi strikes on Yemen’s capital

May 16, 2019

At least six civilians, including children, have been killed and dozens of others wounded in multiple airstrikes by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition on various neighborhoods of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

According to Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah television network, Saudi-led fighter jets pounded various parts of the capital on Thursday, killing at least six civilians, four of whom were children from one family, and wounding dozens more.

Medical officials said the death toll could rise due to the intensity of the strikes and the number of those who have been seriously injured. They added that there could be other civilians, dead or wounded, under the rubble.

Most of the strikes targeted residential areas in Sana’a, the officials said.

Warplanes also struck a building of Yemen’s Ministry of Information, al-Masirah added. There were no immediate reports about possible casualties or the extent of the damage caused.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power.

According to a December 2018 report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/16/596077/Yemen-Saudi-Arabia-airstrikes-Sanaa-civilians

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Yemeni retaliatory drone raids on Saudi Arabia had no links to Iran: Ansarullah

May 16, 2019

A senior member of the Houthi Ansarullah movement says Yemen’s recent retaliatory drone strikes on a vital oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia were an act of self defense and had nothing to do with Iran, which the Riyadh regime and its allies falsely accuse of arming Yemeni forces.

In a rare interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee of Yemen, said Yemeni forces used domestically-built drones to target the East-West oil pipeline, which runs from Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea.

Iran, he added, had no role in the counter-attacks, which hit two pumping stations in the heart of the kingdom and forced oil giant Aramco to stop pumping crude on the vital 1,200-kilometer pipeline.

He said Ansarullah forces have been defending the country against the Saudi-led invasion for four years, and that they were not acting “on behalf of Iran.”

He also dismissed as “ridiculous” claims that Iran provides Yemeni forces with missiles, saying “even a single piece of bread cannot get past the siege” imposed the Saudi-led coalition of aggressors against Yemen.

Houthi further said that the retaliatory missile attacks against Saudi targets would be halted in case the Saudi-led military coalition ends its acts of aggression against the impoverished country.

“We will decide on our own about this,” he emphasized.

The Saudi regime — along with its allies — accuses Iran of arming Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement against the kingdom. Tehran has invariably dismissed having ever armed the movement and any accusation of regional interference for that matter.

Acting US Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen — whose country is the main supporter of the bloody Saudi war on Yemen — recently repeated the same unfounded allegations against Iran, claiming that Tehran was “fueling” the war by “violating” the arms embargo.

Saudi Arabia's deputy defense minister, Khalid bin Salman, also accused Iran Thursday of ordering the drone attacks.

Leading a coalition of its allies, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the former regime of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh. They have also imposed an all-out blockade against the already-poorest Arabian Peninsula state.

The invasion, which has failed to achieve any of its goals, has reportedly killed over 56,000 people. The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.

Backed by allied forces, the Houthi movement has been defending the country against the Saudi-led aggression besides running state affairs in Sana’a in the absence of an effective government.

It was not the first time that Yemeni forces used drones in their retaliatory raids, but Tuesday’s drone raids, which hit deep inside the Saudi kingdom, was seen by analysts as a sign of a significant leap in the Yemeni army’s drone capabilities.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, retired Jordanian air force general Mamour al-Nowar said an un-stealthy aircraft was able to fly for several hours deep into Saudi Arabia, and was not detected and intercepted in a time of war, adding, this will ring alarm bells.

“Their air defense system completely failed to handle such attacks” and the Houthis now have the ability “to reach Riyadh and Abu Dhabi,” potentially paralyzing the country “if they hit desalination water pumping stations or the [almost built] nuclear plant in Abu Dhabi.”

On the day of the drone raids, Mohammad al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Political Council of the Houthi, movement described Yemeni drone strikes against strategic targets inside Saudi Arabia and the UAE as in line with the right of self defense, stating that Yemeni forces will cease such aerial assaults once the Riyadh and Abu Dhabi regime change course and put an end to their military aggression.

Deputy Yemeni Minister of Information, Fahmi al-Yusufi, also said the drone strikes carry a clear message to Saudis.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/16/596065/Yemen-Ansarullah-Mohammed-Ali-alHouthi-drone-attack-Saudi-pipeline

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Israeli forces injures over 60 Palestinians during Nakba Day protests

May 15, 2019

More than 60 Palestinians have been injured in the besieged Gaza Strip as Israeli forces attacked protesters marking the 71st anniversary of the Nakba Day (the Day of Catastrophe).

Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesman for the Gazan Health Ministry, said that 65 Palestinians, including 22 children and five women, were injured during the protests on Wednesday.

Most of those injured were hit by live bullets, according to the report.

Qedra further said that the Israeli forces also targeted the medical personnel, hitting three paramedics by rubber bullets.

Similar rallies were also held in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Nakba Day is marked annually on May 15. It refers to the forcible expulsion of some 700,000 Palestinians from their lands following the creation of Israel in 1948 and their scattering across refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring countries.

In commemoration of the 71st anniversary of the Nakba Day, the Palestinian Hamas movement described its resistance fighters’ weapons as a red line, strongly denouncing attempts by a number of Arab states and Persian Gulf kingdoms to normalize diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime after years of clandestine contacts.

Tensions have been running high near the fence, separating Gaza from the occupied territories, since March 30, which marked the start of a series of protests called “The Great March of Return.” Palestinian protesters demand the right to return for those driven out of their homeland.

More than 300 Palestinians have been killed since then, and over 17,300 have been injured.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596039/Palestinians-Nakba-Day-

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UAE hands down heavy jail terms to 3 Hezbollah-linked Lebanese citizens

May 15, 2019

A court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has handed down lengthy prison sentences to three Lebanese citizens on trumped up charges of setting up a “terrorist cell” and planning attacks upon orders from Hezbollah resistance movement.

On Wednesday, the Federal Supreme Court put eight Lebanese nationals, all Shia Muslims, on trial on terrorism-related charges.

Amnesty International said five of the defendants were acquitted of the charges. The court, which is the highest judicial authority in the Persian Gulf Arab country, sentenced one man to life imprisonment and two others to ten years each.

“The absence of basic requirements of a fair trial, such as having access to a lawyer, strips today's verdict of any reliability or credibility,” Amnesty's Middle East Research Director, Lynn Maalouf, said in a statement.

She added, “The eight men were held in solitary confinement for over a year – this in itself can amount to torture. They were also denied access to their lawyers from the beginning of the trial; a number of the men claimed they had been tortured to sign so-called confessions but there have been no investigations into these claims.”

“These details leave us with no confidence in the process that led to the conviction of the three men,” Maalouf noted.

All of the Lebanese men, who stood on trial on Wednesday, had lived and worked in the UAE for more than 15 years, seven of them for Dubai-owned Emirates Airlines, according to Human Rights Watch.

They were detained between December 2017 and February last year, and held for one year before their trial opened on February 13.

During an April 3 session at the state security chamber of the Federal Appeal Court in Abu Dhabi, one of the men, identified as Abdel Rahman Talal Chouman, described how he was tortured for six hours at a time and forced to sign a confession he was not even given a chance to read.

In a Ramadan message to his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and President Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil had demanded a special pardon for the eight Lebanese citizens, in addition to three other convicts.

Even though Hezbollah holds three cabinet posts and has 13 seats in the Lebanese parliament, it has been blacklisted as a "terrorist" organization by the UAE.

On October 31, 2016, a court in the UAE sentenced seven people to up to life in prison for establishing a cell linked to Hezbollah.

State news agency WAM reported that an Emirati man and two Lebanese men were handed life sentences and an Egyptian woman and another Emirati man were each jailed for 10 years.

An Iraqi and another Lebanese man were each jailed for 15 years as well.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596038/UAE-hands-down-heavy-jail-terms-to-3-Hezbollahlinked-Lebanese-citizens

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Africa

 

Sudan opposition regrets military council’s suspension of talks

16 May 2019

Sudan’s opposition alliance on Thursday said the ruling military council’s suspension of talks with protesters for 72 hours was a “regrettable decision”.

The opposition alliance, known as the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), also vowed to continue sit-ins outside the defense ministry and across the country.

Earlier in the day, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) suspended the talks after protesters broke a deal on de-escalation, the council head said in a televised statement.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/05/16/Sudan-opposition-regrets-military-council-s-suspension-of-talks.html

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SPF warns ISIS is taking advantage of the unrest in Tripoli

May 14, 2019

Spokesman for Sirte Protection Force (SPF), Taha Hadid, said Monday that ISIS is taking advantage of the ongoing events in Tripoli to reorganize themselves and resume their activities.

Hadid told the Russian news agency, Sputnik, that they will continue to conduct fixed and mobile patrols in the west, east, and south of the city to repel any terrorist acts and to support the state's civil and security institutions, stressing that there is no other force in the vicinity of Sirte other than the SPF-aligned forces, which were called after detecting suspicious movements of ISIS in the south-west of the country.

https://www.libyaobserver.ly/inbrief/spf-warns-isis-taking-advantage-unrest-tripoli

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Somali security forces kill 14 al-Shabab militants in foiled attack

2019-05-14

MOGADISHU, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Somali security forces killed 14 al-Shabab militants after they foiled a terrorist attack by the terrorist group in Bariire town in southern region, the government said on Tuesday.

The ministry of information said the terrorists were killed on Monday night during a fierce fighting between the Somali National Army (SNA) and the militants in Lower Shabelle province.

The terrorists were killed on Monday night when SNA successfully repelled an attempted attack by terrorist infiltration into Bariire town in Lower Shabelle province, the ministry said.

Al-Shabab, which controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia, continues to carry out high-profile attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere, targeting bases manned by African Union and Somali security forces.

Full report at:

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-05/14/c_138057789.htm

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Mali calls for more EU help amid attacks in Africa’s Sahel

By Lorne Cook 

May 14, 2019

BRUSSELS — The impoverished West African country of Mali on Tuesday urged the European Union to step up support for the Sahel region amid a spate of extremist attacks, as France buried two officers killed during a hostage rescue mission.

“It’s a race against time,” Foreign Minister Tiebile Drame said, following attacks in central Mali and across the border in northern Burkina Faso. He called for action from “Europe and other countries in the world that have the means and feel concerned by the terrorist threat.”

Speaking to reporters in Brussels after a meeting of EU and Sahel country government ministers, Drame said that “we need support. We need to speed up procedures. We need international mobilization in a concrete way.”

Security has deteriorated in the Sahel over the past decade, with extremist attacks occurring frequently. Both fighters and people seeking better lives in Europe move easily across the region’s long, porous borders.

Several groups linked to the Islamic State organization and al-Qaida are active in the region. In a rare video released late last month, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi congratulated “brothers” in Burkina Faso, Mali and other countries for pledging allegiance.

Once-peaceful Burkina Faso has been increasingly destabilized by jihadists from across the border in Mali. On Sunday unknown gunmen attacked a Catholic church during Mass, killing a priest and five worshippers.

Attacks have included the kidnapping of foreigners. The French special forces officers were killed Friday during an operation to free foreign hostages in Burkina Faso. They were part of a French military operation trying to root out Islamic extremists in the Sahel.

The region also includes conflict-torn Libya’s neighbors Chad and Niger, as well as Mauritania further west.

“This is a situation that’s getting worse and we must do something about it,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said.

The region is a transit hub and path for migrants trying to reach Europe, and the EU has earmarked around 8 billion euros ($9 billion) in development support for Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania for 2014-2020. Last year the EU and other donors raised more than 400 million euros to fund a regional counter-terror force.

The 5,000-strong force remains short of equipment and training. A branch of al-Qaida set off a car bomb at its headquarters in central Mali last year.

Reynders said the Europeans “want to see the very clear willingness of the Sahel countries to take charge of border control, the security aspects of all those pathways used by armed groups to get from one country to another.”

He also said the EU must do more to bolster the regional force with military and police support.

Mali’s Drame said many of the region’s problems are exacerbated by the conflict in Libya.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/mali-calls-for-more-eu-help-amid-attacks-in-africas-sahel/2019/05/14/f0e2129c-7653-11e9-a7bf-c8a43b84ee31_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.74ea0690f6f5

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Militants ambush soldiers in Niger, 17 killed

May 15, 2019

Gunmen have ambushed Nigerien soldiers near the Malian border, killing at least 17 soldiers, a government spokesman says.

Another 11 soldiers are still missing after the gunmen attacked Nigerien troops near the town of Tongo Tongo on Tuesday, Abdourahamane Zakaria told Reuters on Wednesday.

The spokesman did not identify who is behind the attack, which occurred in the same region where militants from a Daesh affiliate killed four US special forces and four Nigerien soldiers in an ambush back in October 2017.

Militant groups, including affiliates of al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist group, have intensified attacks on military and civilian targets across West Africa's Sahel region in the recent months, particularly along the porous borders between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Niger’s southeast also faces a threat from Nigeria-based Boko Haram and a splinter group affiliated with Daesh.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/05/15/596031/Niger-soldiers-ambush-Mali

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