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Islamic World News (02 Aug 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Kashmir Issue Bilateral: India’s ‘Clear’ Message to US after Trump Offer







Kashmir Issue Bilateral: India’s ‘Clear’ Message to US after Trump Offer

All Muslim Personal Law Board Calls Passing of Triple Talaq Bill as Indian Democracy’s Black Day

India Conveys ‘Grave Concern’ Over US Military Assistance to Pakistan

Desire to Improve Pak-India Ties behind Trump’s Offer: US

UN Adopts Moroccan Resolution on Interfaith Dialogue

Moot Urges Dialogue to Promote Interfaith Harmony

Islamists Say Removing Mahathir Will Plunge Malaysia in Chaos

Taliban Expects Peace Deal with US in Next Meeting

Terrorists' Defense Lines Crushed by Syrian Army's Rapid Advance in Hama

Dozens Killed in Yemen in Attacks on Military Parade and Police Station

Nigeria Insists Boko Haram 'Defeated' After 10-Year Insurgency

 

India

Kashmir Issue Bilateral: India’s ‘Clear’ Message to US after Trump Offer

All Muslim Personal Law Board Calls Passing of Triple Talaq Bill as Indian Democracy’s Black Day

India Conveys ‘Grave Concern’ Over US Military Assistance to Pakistan

US President Donald Trump Offers To Mediate On Kashmir. Again

Interpol Rejects India's Application to Blacklist Exiled Muslim Televangelist Zakir Naik

Muslim Law Board blames Opposition for enactment of Triple Talaq Bill

‘No Agreement’ On Ayodhya, Mediation Report Submitted; SC Takes It Up Today

NIA files charge sheet in Dec ’17 Pulwama attack

Delhi High Court tribunal upholds 5-year ban on SIMI

First since independence: ‘Nagar Kirtan’ with Guru Granth Sahib arrives from Pakistan

ED attaches Rs 1.73 crore assets of Kashmiri businessman for terror financing

MEA dismisses reports claiming arrest of Indian ‘spy’ in Pakistan

Zomato Muslim Rider Case: What Is The Bond That Police Want Signed?

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North America

Desire to Improve Pak-India Ties behind Trump’s Offer: US

US Watching Tehran ‘Very Closely’ After Renewing Waivers For Iran Civil Nuclear Projects

US prepares to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in deal with the Taliban

‘US cornered itself with Bolton, Pompeo Mideast policies: Analyst

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Europe

UN Adopts Moroccan Resolution on Interfaith Dialogue

British Army to Mobilise Cyber Spies To Combat ISIS And Russia Threats

Australia proposes new laws to keep extremists in prison

Warrants say New Zealand attack inspired synagogue shooting

UN Security Council continues to report on al Qaeda-Taliban alliance

Germany’s top court upholds ban on anti-Erdogan poem

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Pakistan

Moot Urges Dialogue to Promote Interfaith Harmony

PM Imran Striving To Transform Pakistan into Islamic Welfare State: Special Assistant To Prime Minister

Hasil Bizenjo's remarks implicating ISI chief 'unfounded', says DG ISPR

Qureshi assures Khalilzad of Pakistan’s support to Afghan peace process

PM chairs civil-military huddle to review outcome of US visit

Improving ties with Saudi Arabia a top priority, PM Imran tells MBS

Pakistan: Senate chairman Sanjrani survives vote of no-confidence

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Southeast Asia

Islamists Say Removing Mahathir Will Plunge Malaysia in Chaos

Preacher Zakir Naik in Limbo But Malaysia Is Not Throwing Him Out

Rein in preachers who cause racial and religious discord

Malaysian lawmaker apologises for proposing law to protect men from being seduced

Bin Laden Family ‘Henchman’ Arrested in Philippines, a Growing Islamist Bastion

Chinese Authorities Order Beijing Restaurants to Remove Islamic Symbols From Hoardings

Depok council to propose replacement for ‘religious city’ draft bylaw

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South Asia

Taliban Expects Peace Deal with US in Next Meeting

Afghan govt forms 15-member team to negotiate with Taliban

US, Taliban set to finalize 'agreement' ahead of intra-Afghan peace talks

Bangladesh court indicts six in secular blogger''s murder case

Afghan Special Forces destroy 3 factories of suicide bombing vests in Paktika

Imran Khan asks Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to contact Afghan leadership

Afghan official: Bombing in Kabul kills two policemen

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Arab World

Terrorists' Defense Lines Crushed by Syrian Army's Rapid Advance in Hama

Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Flee Key Base in Hama after Heavy Defeat

Syrian regime agrees ‘conditionally’ to Idlib truce: State media

Islamic State attacks kill seven security forces in Iraq –police

386 children in have died in Syria's Al Hol camp since January, says monitor

Iraqi security forces shell 3 Islamic State outposts in Diyala

Egypt calls for Palestinian state during Kushner visit

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Mideast

Dozens Killed in Yemen in Attacks on Military Parade and Police Station

Saudi Arabia Steps Up Aid for Yemen Child Soldiers

US extends waivers for countries to continue civil nuclear work with Iran

Iran sanctions effective, “we will enforce them” everywhere: Pompeo

Troubled UN agency for Palestinians names new deputy head

Iran is ready for the worst in efforts to salvage nuclear deal: Rouhani

Al-Qaeda attack kills 19 soldiers in south Yemen: security officials

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Africa

Nigeria Insists Boko Haram 'Defeated' After 10-Year Insurgency

Somalia: Kenya Wants UN to Designate the Al-Shabaab as a Terrorist Group

Islamic State says killed or wounded more than 40 Nigerian soldiers: Amaq

Mozambique leader vows to hunt down jihadist attackers

Sudanese forces kill 4 protesters in renewed violence

Sudan: Soldiers arrested for killing school boys

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/kashmir-issue-bilateral--india’s-‘clear’-message-to-us-after-trump-offer/d/119372:

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Kashmir issue bilateral: India’s ‘clear’ message to US after Trump offer

Aug 02, 2019

India on Friday once again underlined the bilateral nature of Kashmir issue with Pakistan and told the US in “clear terms” that any discussion on the subject will happen only with Islamabad.

New Delhi’s comment comes just hours after US president Donald Trump once again stressed that he would “certainly intervene” if “they” asked. It was, however, not clear if “they” was used for India or Pakistan, or both.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who is in Bangkok attending the ASEAN summit, tweeted that he had conveyed New Delhi’s intent to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo.

“Have conveyed to American counterpart @SecPompeo this morning in clear terms that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally,” Jaishankar wrote.

Dr. S. Jaishankar

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@DrSJaishankar

• 2h

Wide ranging discussions with @SecPompeo on regional issues.

View image on Twitter

Dr. S. Jaishankar

?

@DrSJaishankar

Have conveyed to American counterpart @SecPompeo this morning in clear terms that any discussion on Kashmir, if at all warranted, will only be with Pakistan and only bilaterally.

3,235

9:39 AM - Aug 2, 2019

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Donald Trump, while answering a question from a reporter at the White House about his earlier offer to mediate on Kashmir issue, said: “If they wanted somebody to intervene and I spoke to Pakistan about that… I spoke frankly with India about it… if they wanted me to I would certainly intervene”.

Trump first made the offer, with the claim about Modi, on June 22 in response to a public appeal from the visiting Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan in joint remarks at the White House.

India denied Modi had ever asked Trump to mediate and reiterated known Indian position that all issues with Pakistan can only be resolved bilaterally and after Pakistan stops supporting terrorism.

The state department followed up, and reiterated old US position, and one very different from Trump, that India and Pakistan should resolve their differences bilaterally and that the United States stands ready to assist.

With that, both sides decided to move on. A senior state department official took pretty much the same line at briefing for reporters Wednesday on Khan’s recent visit. “The US ability to encourage a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan whether on Kashmir or other bilateral issues will be a function of Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory,” the official said.

But it seems President Trump did not get an update on his offer, and was still waiting for response. When asked by a reporter Thursday, Trump replied with question: “Have they accepted the offer or not?”

When told they had not, he said, “Well it’s really up to Prime Minister Modi.”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kashmir-discussion-will-happen-only-bilaterally-india-to-us-after-donald-trump-s-offer/story-SYNoZBCFbMo1HiuGOG1aaM.html

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All Muslim Personal Law Board calls passing of Triple Talaq bill as Indian democracy’s black day

Jul 30, 2019

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) reacting sharply called it a "black day in Indian democracy" when on Tuesday the Parliament passed the central government's bill criminalizing the practice of instant triple talaq. The board maintained its stand of using its constitutional rights to oppose the passed bill in the Supreme Court (SC).

The board, which is the umbrella organisation of all Islamic sects, said that the "Modi government passed the bill in both the lower and upper house despite Muslim women's opposition to it."

Board's general secretary, Maulana Wali Rahmani, said that AIMPLB condemns the central government's action on behalf of millions of women.

Also slamming the opposition, Rahmani said that "they have all shown their true colours." In an official statement, Rahmani said, "We strongly condemn the Congress party, Janta Dal, BSP, AIDMK, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi (TRS) and YSR Congress party. They supported the BJP's political agenda and walked out at the voting time in Rajya Sabha. They have all shown their true colours."

The board's stand on instant triple talaq has been uniform in the past several months clearing that the board considers the practice un-Quranic and un-Islamic and as anti-women. It had also cleared that the Supreme Court's (SC) ruling on such a divorce being invalid was accepted by the board but had been objecting the government's proposal to criminalize an "invalid" practice.

The board maintained its stand of opposing the bill passed in Parliament on Tuesday, in the apex court of Justice.

The board had also formed a committee in December 2018, through which it said meetings with legislators of various parties except BJP will be approached to make them understand legal fallacies of the instant triple talaq ordinance and how it affects women and their families.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/all-muslim-personal-law-board-calls-passing-of-triple-talaq-bill-as-indian-democracys-black-day/articleshow/70456250.cms

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India conveys ‘grave concern’ over US military assistance to Pakistan

Aug 02, 2019

India has conveyed its “grave concern” to the US over its decision to provide military assistance to Pakistan.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the issue was taken up with the US Ambassador here and with the Trump administration in Washington.

“We have taken up the matter with the US Ambassador in Delhi, as well as with the US government in Washington through our Ambassador. We have expressed grave concern over US military assistance to Pakistan,” Kumar said during a media briefing.

Sources said the US envoy was called to South Block and a protest was lodged with him over the US decision to help Pakistan militarily.

Last week, the Pentagon notified the Congress of its decision to approve military sales worth USD 125 million that would result in the monitoring of the F-16 fighter jets of Pakistan. The notification came days after a meeting between President Donald Trump and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in White House.

“The US side has told us that the proposed sale does not indicate any change in the US policy of maintaining a freeze in military assistance to Pakistan,” Kumar said.

“US has publicly stated that the proposed sale is intended to enable the US to continue technical and logistics support services to assist in the oversight of the operations of F-16 aircraft in Pakistan’s inventory,” he added. Pakistan had used the F-16 fighter jets against India in its retaliation to Balakot strikes in February.

The Pentagon asserted that the proposed military assistance will not alter the basic military balance in the region. Asked about the strain in trade ties between India and US, Kumar said: “we are approaching the matter relating to trade in a very positive and constructive manner”.

A high-level trade delegation from the US visited India last month to find ways to resolve the issues. Trade ties between the two sides have come under strain after the US in June announced its decision to end preferential trade status for India. As a retaliatory measure, India also announced raising tariffs on 29 goods imported from the US.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-conveys-grave-concern-over-us-military-assistance-to-pakistan/story-8Bv05h9Km9GE6x02xH28CP.html

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Desire to improve Pak-India ties behind Trump’s offer: US

Anwar Iqbal

August 02, 2019

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s offer to help resolve the Kashmir dispute should be seen against the backdrop of the US desire to help improve relations between India and Pakistan, says a senior State Department official.

Briefing the media on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington last week, the official reiterated the US offer to help India and Pakistan resolve the 70-year old dispute, if asked by both.

The official also stressed the need for Pakistan to fulfil its obligations to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which threatens to blacklist Islamabad if it does not eradicate terrorism financing. The official said the US ability to encourage a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan, whether on Kashmir or other bilateral issues, would be a function of Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory.

“Obviously it’s in everyone’s interest to see an improvement in relations between India and Pakistan. And the [US] president’s offer was made in recognition of that fact,” the official said.

“We recognise that Kashmir has been a bilateral issue but there are opportunities as Pakistan takes steps that build confidence in its own efforts to counter terrorism [and] ultimately towards a constructive dialogue. We stand ready to assist if asked by the parties to do so,” the senior State Department official added.

At a joint news conference with Prime Minister Khan at the White House on July 22, President Trump said he was willing to mediate between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue if the two neighbours asked him to do so.

“If I can help, I would love to be a mediator. If I can do anything to help, let me know,” said Mr Trump while responding to a question from a Pakistani journalist.

“I was with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi two weeks ago and we talked about this subject (Kashmir). And he, actually, said, would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator? I said, where? (Modi said) Kashmir,” Mr Trump explained.

The statement caused a political storm in India where opposition parties called Mr Modi’s reported request to the US president an act of treason and asked him to explain why he made such a move.

The Indian government denied ever asking Mr Trump to mediate on Kashmir, adding that India retains its traditional position that it will not accept any third-party mediation on its disputes with Pakistan.

On July 24, President Trump’s Chief Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow rejected the suggestion that his boss had “made up” the claim that the Indian PM had asked him to mediate on Kashmir. “The president does not make anything up. That’s a very rude question in my opinion,” he told a reporter at a White House briefing.

At Wednesday’s State Department briefing, the senior US official backed Mr Trump’s offer but said a follow-up would depend on the steps that Pakistan now takes to eradicate terrorism from the region.

The visit, the official said, was a chance for the prime minister to discuss how his government would bring his vision about and for both sides to confer on how the United States could support Pakistan in this endeavour.

Pakistan was strictly following its “trade, not aid” policy, said the official, adding that no member of the prime minister’s delegation sought US financial assistance during the visit. The US was ready to help Pakistan achieve this and a US delegation may soon visit Islamabad for this purpose, the official added.

The official said Pakistan’s obligations to the Paris-based FATF had also been discussed at the prime minister’s meeting with President Trump and at a separate meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The US cooperation on this issue would depend on how Islamabad implements its own plan of action, the official added.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1497591/desire-to-improve-pak-india-ties-behind-trumps-offer-us

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UN Adopts Moroccan Resolution on Interfaith Dialogue

July 26, 2019

The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted on Thursday a Morocco-proposed resolution on the promotion of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and the fight against hate speech.

The resolution urges the international community to undertake initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation between religions and cultures

When presenting the resolution before the General Assembly, Morocco’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Omar Hilale, stressed that the objective of this text is to raise awareness within the international community about the dangers of hate speech.

The Moroccan diplomat added that today’s world is going through a turbulent period, characterized by the exacerbation and multiplication of hate speech, which is contrary to the values of peace, tolerance, and coexistence.

The adoption by consensus of this resolution and its co-sponsorship by ninety countries, from all regional groups and various cultural and religious sensitivities, reflect the role played by Morocco as a promoter of dialogue and moderation. This also illustrates the kingdom’s status as a bridge builder of tolerance and coexistence between nations and groups.

http://northafricapost.com/32830-un-adopts-moroccan-resolution-on-interfaith-dialogue.html

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Moot urges dialogue to promote interfaith harmony

JULY 27, 2019

LAHORE: Scholars from different religions and faiths on Saturday called for unity among all communities and urged the government to create an atmosphere, at provincial and national levels, where everyone can play an active role in the promotion of peace and peaceful coexistence and open dialogue in order to counter negative thoughts.

Sharing a stage in front of a diverse audience at an interactive seminar – Interfaith Harmony – held here at the Punjabi Complex, they discussed the role of religious institutions in promoting interfaith harmony and the encouragement of interfaith acceptability through better coordination between different faiths.

Expressing their views, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) member Mufti Raghib Hussain Naeemi, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, Bishop Azad Marshal, Baha’i community member Dr Faramarz Roshani, Father Nadeem Francis, Hindu leader Amarnath Randhawa, and Sikh Scholar Prof Kalyan Singh urged the people to develop the spirit of coexistence by maintaining religious harmony and peace.

On the occasion, all the speakers signed a resolution of peace as an agreement towards ensuring interfaith harmony and declared that they would work with the government in promoting peaceful coexistence. Also, a thorough discussion was witnessed on the importance of implementation of the laws including the National Action Plan (NAP), Hate Speech Ordinance, and others.

Addressing the audience, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw said that dialogue was important in order to walk on the path of truth and peace. “We need to respect a person on the basis of humanity. “I should tell you that never has it happened that anyone would have asked me to change my religion nor have we ever asked anyone to change theirs,” he said.

Mufti Raghib Naeemi suggested dialogue and open discussions on all faiths through similar platforms to ensure interfaith harmony and coexistence. “Islam does not teach aggression and no one is allowed to force people from other faiths to convert to this religion,” he said, adding that tension and conflict arise when someone targets other faiths. “It is important to negate such conflict by having educational debates with learned people from all faiths,” he said.

Sharing his views, Bishop Azad Marshal said that Pakistan was made with an idea that it would be a Muslim majority state, but it will not be intolerant towards other religions and faiths. “Interfaith harmony is our need and it will come when we will have tolerance and acceptability for each other,” he said. “We need to create strategies, ways and means to promote interfaith harmony,” he said.

“We need to have knowledge, dialogue and discussion on broader levels in order to ensure interfaith harmony,” said Dr Faramarz Roshani, member of Baha’i community. He said that nothing can be more damaging than intolerance and hatred. “We need to end the blame game and bring about a change through peace among all faiths and sects,” he said.

Hindu leader Amarnath Randhawa suggested interfaith harmony through educational and religious institutions, saying Pakistanis can counter hatred with love and peace. He said that no faith promotes hatred or intolerance. Prof Kalyan Singh said that the textbooks have preached hatred against different religions like Hinduism and Sikhs and this needs to be condemned and be replaced with interfaith harmony and humanity.

He said that it should be noted that this region was never a region of intolerance on the basis of religion or faith. He pointed out that all religious places were always open to everyone and no one would even ask anyone’s religion. Suggesting a change in syllabus, Father Nadeem Francis said there could be no peace or interfaith harmony until the government and the media do not give equal representation and acceptance to the minorities.

Allama Asim Makhdoom said that there was an urgent need to ensure interfaith harmony at the government level. “I am here to say that it is the government’s negligence and attitude, which is leading minorities into problems,” he said.

Representatives from Multan also shared their success stories about how they ensured interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence in their respective areas of South Punjab through various activities, focused on promoting coexistence and harmony.

In the end, CPSS Executive Director Saeeda Diep and Mufti Raghib Naeemi presented shields and bouquet to the panellists.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/07/27/religious-speakers-suggest-dialogue-to-counter-negative-thoughts-during-moot/

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Islamists say removing Mahathir will plunge Malaysia in chaos

August 1, 2019

Making their point in keeping Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in power until the end of the 5-year mandate, the Islamists in opposition say removing the PM will cause instability in Malaysia.

Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) has given its unconditional support to Dr Mahathir saying they will prevent any attempt at removing him from power. PAS also says Pakatan Harapan requires a strong leader to steer a loose coalition.

The Islamists, through their vice-president Mohd Amar Abdullah have said that they see Dr Mahathir as the strongest, with his experience and attitude.

He said the Islamists must defend Mahathir’s Bersatu because other parties in Harapan do not have the “characteristics of Islamic leadership.”

Dr Mahathir won the support of the Islamist party leader Abdul Hadi Awang who last week wrote in the party’s organ Harakah Daily his party and the Umno will support the PM’s leadership.

The Islamists have 18 MP’s in Parliament. The party said its MP’s are ready to give Dr Mahathir full support in the event of a motion of no confidence against him.

Dr Mahathir won the unconditional support of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s deputy president Azmin Ali who is also the Minister of Economic Affairs in the cabinet.

Azmin who is the target of a political plot to undermine him with a series of gay-sex videos, said he supported Hadi’s statement and agreed that Dr Mahathir should stay in power for five years.

It meant that he did not support Anwar Ibrahim to become Prime Minister next year, as planned by the Pakatan Harapan leadership.

Azmin had also lent support to the son of Dr Mahathir, Mukhriz Mahathir who is the Menteri Besar of Kedah. The latter said there is no 2-year deal for his father to quit power and hand it over to Anwar.

Meanwhile, Bersatu’s state assemblymen in Selangor have also given their full support to Dr Mahathir for a full term as PM.

While it is expected that his party will give such support, it is worth noting it is made public amid an atmosphere of a potential challenge to Dr Mahathir’s leadership.

The Bersatu assemblypersons say their position follows media statements made by Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, as well as the same position taken by Umno and PAS in support of Dr Mahathir.

Malaysia was rocked by uncertainty on whether Dr M would honour Haparan’s consensus to hand over power to Anwar before his term ends.

Dr Mahathir himself changed his position on the 2-year mandate, giving the impression he wanted to push it to three years and now it is being forwarded to five years.

Harapan has a consensus which states Dr Mahathir will hand over power to Anwar in two years. But in the absence of a concrete timeline, choas has occurred in the ruling coalition.

http://theindependent.sg/islamists-say-removing-mahathir-will-plunge-malaysia-in-chaos/

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Taliban Expects Peace Deal With US in Next Meeting

By Ayaz Gul

July 31, 2019

ISLAMABAD - The Taliban says it is hopeful an agreement will be reached with the United States to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan when the two adversaries meet later this week in Qatar for a crucial round of peace negotiations.

The two sides have worked hard for nearly one year and almost drafted a text in which “we have addressed all major issues,” Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban negotiating team, told VOA.

Taliban negotiators have done their part and it is now up to the American side whether they have "made up their mind” and take the next step of winding up the dialogue process, he asserted.

“We hope to reach an agreement on the troops’ withdrawal,” Shaheen said when asked for his exceptions from the upcoming meeting, though he declined to say when exactly the talks will take place.

U.S chief negotiator Zalamay Khalilzad, who has been in Afghanistan for more than a week, tweeted Wednesday that he is heading to Qatar for talks with the Taliban. "In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours and conclude the agreement we have been working on." Khalilzad added that during his stay in Kabul he worked with Afghan leaders to finalize a negotiating team for intra-Afghan talks. Khalilzad said he will stop in neighboring Pakistan before traveling to the Qatari capital.

The draft text outlines a “mutually agreed” timeline for U.S. troops to leave the country in exchange for Taliban guarantees that “Afghan soil, particularly areas under our control” do not become a platform for transnational terrorism, Shaheen said, without sharing specific details.

He said international guarantors, possibly China, Russia, the United Nations, and neighbors of Afghanistan, including Pakistan and Iran, will witness the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump has indicated he intends to wind down the longest U.S. foreign military intervention, costing Washington an estimated nearly one trillion dollars and more than 2,400 lives of American military personnel.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Trump has instructed him to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by the 2020 election. “He (Trump) has been unambiguous: End the endless wars. Draw down. Reduce. It won’t just be us,” Pompeo noted in some of the clearest comments on the administration’s plans to terminate the war.

Once the agreement between the United States and the Taliban is inked, it will require the insurgents to immediately enter into negotiations with Afghan stakeholders.

The chief Taliban negotiator, Sher Abbas Stanikzai, earlier this month acknowledged while talking to VOA in Doha that issues such as a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire will be taken up in the intra-Afghan talks.

“We are committed that when the final agreement is signed with the Americans for the withdrawal of their troops and the timetable is given and international guarantors are witnessing the final signature, after that we will go to the inter-Afghan dialogue,” Stanikzai explained to VOA.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government has repeatedly said it would have the lead role in conducting the inter-Afghan talks, prompting the Taliban to quickly deny those assertions.

Khalilzad, however, intervened on Saturday to end the confusion by publicly explaining who would be sitting on the negotiating table when intra-Afghan negotiations begin.

“They will take place between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women,” the Afghan-born U.S. envoy tweeted.

Khalilzad’s statement was yet another major concession to the Taliban who have consistently refused to engage in direct talks with the Ghani administration, dismissing it as “illegitimate and an American puppet.”

The Afghan-born American reconciliation envoy has been in Kabul over the past week and has held at least four meetings with Ghani and talked to key Afghan opposition leaders as well as civil society leaders in his bid to push them to form a representative team for the much-awaited talks with the Taliban to help end decades of bloodshed in the country.

Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace

Neighboring Pakistan, meanwhile, is increasingly taking the center stage in the Afghan peace process for arranging the U.S.-Taliban dialogue and vowing to intensify its role to help bring the process to the logical conclusion.

Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Washington earlier this month and discussed Afghanistan with President Trump. The Pakistani leader promised to personally meet with Taliban leaders to persuade them to go for a negotiated settlement to the war through Afghan-to-Afghan talks.

On Tuesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi welcomed Pompeo’s statement about U.S. military drawdown. He insisted while talking to reporters that Islamabad is moving forward with “honesty and in good faith” to further the Afghan reconciliation process but he dismissed assertions Pakistan alone is responsible for doing so.

“Pakistan is a facilitator. Pakistan is not a guarantor. The onus cannot be on Pakistan alone because it is a shared responsibility. It will be unrealistic for the world to expect that we (Pakistan) have a magic wand and can ensure desired outcomes from this peace process,” Qureshi stressed.

Afghans, however, remain critical of Pakistan’s efforts, alleging the country has sheltered Taliban leaders and helped them sustain insurgent activities on the Afghan side, charges Islamabad rejects.

Pakistan’s ongoing effort to fence its nearly 2,600 kilometer Afghan border, denunciation of continued Taliban violence and promoting a reconciliation process are all aimed at securing peaceful neighborhood, say officials in Islamabad.

“We will cooperate even with the devil for ensuring peace in Afghanistan,” a senior Pakistani security official insisted when asked to respond to allegations Pakistan wants to install a government of its own choice in Kabul like it did in the past by supporting certain Afghan factions.

"Pakistan had coined the phrase, and now continues to urge all sides to faithfully implement the "Afghan-owned, Afghan-led" principle as hopes for peace grow stronger by the day,” observed a senior foreign ministry official with direct knowledge of Pakistan’s role in Afghan peace building efforts.

“Aware of its key role, Pakistan will continue to shoulder its part of the shared responsibility,” he added.

Pakistani officials, however, cautioned in background interviews  that their "core interests and serious concerns cannot be overlooked” as such attempts would cast a shadow on this spirt of cooperation.”

Pakistani officials allege rival India’s growing influence in the Afghan security establishment is behind recent terrorist attacks inside Pakistan and want India's role restricted to only reconstruction assistance to the war-torn country. New Delhi rarely comments on the Pakistani allegations while the Afghan government rejects them as baseless. 

Sources in Islamabad told VOA senior U.S. State Department diplomat Alice Wells will arrive in Pakistan next week to review Afghan peace efforts in meetings with Pakistani officials.

Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs, is credited with initiating the direct U.S. talks with the Taliban in July 2018. There was no official confirmation available from either side about her upcoming visit, however.

Iran’s possible role to act as a guarantor in the final U.S.-Taliban deal, however, is unclear in the wake of the country’s increased tensions with the United States. Sources tell VOA that Tehran had refused to attend a meeting Beijing hosted in early July of senior Chinese, Russian, American and Pakistani officials to review Afghan peace developments.

https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/taliban-expects-peace-deal-us-next-meeting

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Terrorists' Defense Lines Crushed by Syrian Army's Rapid Advance in Hama

Aug 01, 2019

The Syrian army forces, supported by the artillery and missile units, continued clashes with Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay'at (the Levant Liberation Board or the Al-Nusra Front) terrorists, regaining control of the two towns of Abu Raiedeh and West Abu Raiedeh as well as al-Arawi, al-Aziziyeh and al-Ray farms.

The government troops could also free the towns of Moshirfeh, Hasraya Tal Syriatel and Harat al-Khalifat in Northeastern parts of the town of al-Jabin.

Meantime, a field source said that the town of al-Arabaeen has collapsed in military terms in the Syrian army's recent advance, adding that the terrorists' defense lines have been fully shattered and their supply routes were cut off in the Syrian army's artillery and missile attacks in Northern Hama.

He added that tens of terrorists were also killed in the operations.

In a relevant development earlier today, the Syrian army hit a heavy blow at Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group's defense lines in the town of al-Latamineh in Northern Hama, forcing the militants to flee their most important headquarters in the region.

The Syrian army forces continued clashes with Tahrir al-Sham terrorists in the Eastern parts of the town of Tal Malah in Northern Hama on Thursday, retaking control of Wadi Hasmin region and the farms near the town of al-Zakah.

Meantime, a military source said that the Syrian army troops have regained control of Wadi Hasmin region, broken the first defense line of Tahrir al-Sham from al-Zakah and opened a new front towards the town of al-Latamineh as the militants' key base in Northern Hama.

He added that a large number of terrorists were forced to flee al-Latamineh as the army is advancing in the region.

The source also said that a group of 17 militants were killed in clashes in al-Zakah, adding that the army forces targeted the terrorists' supply lines in Hasraya and al-Arbaeen with artillery fire.

Meantime, the Syrian air force launched heavy attacks against the terrorists' positions in al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita, Latmin and Dawir al-Akrad in Northern Hama, destroying several of their bases and military vehicles and killing the militants inside.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980510000636

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Dozens Killed in Yemen in Attacks on Military Parade and Police Station

By Saeed Al-Batati and David D. Kirkpatrick

Aug. 1, 2019

AL MUKALLA, Yemen — An airstrike launched by the Houthi faction in Yemen on Thursday killed at least 40 people, including a senior Yemeni military commander, at a parade in the city of Aden, officials said.

In a separate attack in the city, a suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into a police station, killing at least 11 people, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that blast. At least 50 people were wounded in the two attacks in Aden, the provisional capital of the Saudi-backed forces in the country’s civil war.

The missile strike on the military parade was the bloodiest assault on the Saudi-backed forces and their territory since their other main external sponsor, the United Arab Emirates, announced a steep drawdown of troops last month.

The Emiratis had overseen security around Aden, and their withdrawal was also expected to remove portable Patriot missile batteries that they had deployed to help defend the city from such airstrikes. Although it could not be determined whether the Emirati missile defense system remained in place on Thursday, the death toll of the attack raised immediate concerns about other Houthi assaults or advances that might seek to take advantage of the Emirati withdrawal.

The Saudis and Emiratis launched their joint military intervention in Yemen in the spring of 2015, vowing to roll back a takeover by the Houthis because that faction had aligned itself with and received support from Iran. Four years later, however, the fighting has settled into a stalemate.

The Houthis remain in control of the capital, Sana. The conflict has killed tens of thousands. A partial blockade and air campaign by the Saudi-led forces has pushed Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, to the brink of famine, and United Nations aid agencies have said that as many as 14 million people — half the population — are at risk of starvation.

In background briefings last month for Western analysts, the Emiratis said they were pulling back because the war appeared unwinnable.

“Now is the time to double down on the political process,” Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, wrote in a column in The Washington Post about the drawdown. He urged “the international community” to “seize the moment” and “deter any side from exploiting or undermining this opportunity.”

Even as they pull back from fighting the Houthis, Emirati leaders say they remain committed to a second, overlapping mission in Yemen in cooperation with American forces fighting Al Qaeda and other extremists.

But Western analysts and diplomats following the fight against the Houthis say that the direct involvement of Emirati commandos and air support has accounted for virtually all of the coalition’s ground advances over the past four years.

What’s more, analysts say, the active oversight of Emirati commanders on the ground has played an essential role in holding together a strange-bedfellows coalition of rival militias temporarily aligned against the Houthis, especially in the area around Aden.

The Emiratis’ exit has thus significantly increased the challenge to their Saudi partners, who have said that they expect local Yemeni militias trained and equipped by the Saudi and Emirati coalition to take on a larger role in their own defense.

The air attack in Aden on Thursday may be the first significant Houthi attempt to probe for new vulnerabilities since the Emirati move.

The identity of the senior Yemeni commander who was killed, Brig. Gen. Munair al-Yafae, illustrates the fragility of the Saudi-led coalition and, for Washington, the complexity of the puzzle.

Also known as Abu al-Yamama, the general was considered one of the most formidable Yemeni commanders among the Saudi-backed forces, according to Elana DeLozier, a scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has studied the conflict. His death is “a big deal,” she said, noting that his killing could provoke a vow of revenge by his powerful tribe, “although what form that might take is unclear.”

General al-Yafae had been seen in Yemen as closely backed by both the United Arab Emirates and the United States in their shared fight against Al Qaeda. In 2016, he led elite Yemeni forces that recaptured part of Aden and other areas from Qaeda control.

But the general is also a revered leader of a Southern Yemeni separatist movement hostile to the Saudi-backed government, which is led in exile in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. In January 2018, General al-Yafae briefly turned his guns against the Saudi-backed government in Aden and lay siege to the presidential palace there. Three days of clashes between the separatist and government forces killed at least 36 people before the Emiratis managed to quell the dispute.

It was not immediately clear on Thursday if there was any relation between the air attack on the military parade and the suicide bombing at the police station.

Officials said that the bomber had driven the truck through the police station gates during the morning lineup, in an apparent attempt to maximize the casualties. Al Qaeda and other extremist groups have claimed responsibility for previous suicide bombings in the city.

Military parades by the Saudi-backed forces have been a frequent target of Houthi missiles. In the case of the attack on Thursday, the claims of responsibility from official Houthi news outlets appeared to indicate that the attack might have been carried out with a missile or an explosive-laden drone, though further details could not be determined.

One report on a Houthi-controlled television network appeared to claim that the attack had been carried out with both a drone and a medium-range ballistic missile.

The air attack on the military parade hit just as General al-Yafae had stepped off the stage to greet a guest, Reuters reported.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/world/middleeast/yemen-houthi-military-parade.html

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Nigeria insists Boko Haram 'defeated' after 10-year insurgency

2019-07-31

Nigeria's presidency claimed Boko Haram's 10-year-old insurgency had been "defeated" but admitted that international jihadists posed a growing threat.

"The position of the Nigerian government is that the Boko Haram terrorism has been degraded and defeated. The real Boko Haram we know is defeated," the presidency said in a statement late on Tuesday.

It said the country was now facing "a mixture" of Boko Haram remnants, criminal groups and jihadists from the Maghreb and West Africa fuelled by turmoil in Libya and the collapse of the Islamic State caliphate in the Middle East.

"As a consequence of these international gangs, we have seen an increase of trans-border crimes and the proliferation of small arms in the Lake Chad Basin area," the statement said.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general who vowed to crush Boko Haram when he became president in 2015 for his first term in office, has previously said the group were "beaten".

The uprising began in northeast Nigeria in July 2009 when fighting between the hardline group and government forces left hundreds of jihadists dead, including leader Muhammad Yusuf.

Since then, the bloody campaign has killed some 27 000 people, displaced over two million people and spilled over into neighbouring countries.

In 2015, the Nigerian army forced the jihadists out of major towns but they remain at large in remote strongholds.

Fighters still launch persistent attacks and a breakaway faction loyal to ISIS, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), has ratcheted up assaults against the military since last year.

Over the weekend an attack by the Boko Haram group headed by long-time leader Abubakar Shekau killed 65 villagers close to the regional capital Maiduguri.

The army has often been criticised for failing to safeguard local communities, with vigilante groups stepping into the void left by the authorities.

But the presidency said it was looking to bolster its military capacity and expected the long-awaited delivery of Super Tucano turbo-prop warplanes from the United States "beginning next year".

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/nigeria-insists-boko-haram-defeated-after-10-year-insurgency-20190731

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India

 

US president Donald Trump offers to mediate on Kashmir. Again

Yashwant Raj

Aug 02, 2019

US President Donald Trump reiterated his offer Thursday to mediate the Kashmir issue, seemingly unaware of India’s rejection of his earlier bid, saying that if “they” — both India and Pakistan presumably; or only India, it was not clear — asked, he would “certainly intervene”.

The president also seemed to be doubling down on a part of the earlier offer in which he had claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in a recent conversation, which had been forcefully and swiftly dismissed by India.

“If they wanted somebody to intervene or to help them,” Trump said in response to question from a reporter at the White House about his earlier offer to mediate the Kashmir issue, “and I spoke to Pakistan about that … I spoke frankly with India about it… if they wanted me to I would certainly intervene”.

The “they” here could be both India and Pakistan or just India, which has historically opposed third-party mediation unlike Pakistan, which has been calling for it forever. And Trump first made the offer, with the claim about Modi, on June 22 in response to a public appeal from the visiting Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan in joint remarks at the White House.

“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject,” Trump had said. “And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir.’

“If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that,” he said.

India denied Modi had ever asked Trump to mediate and reiterated known Indian position that all issues with Pakistan can only be resolved bilaterally and after Pakistan stops supporting terrorism.

The state department followed up, and reiterated old US position, and one very different from Trump, that India and Pakistan should resolve their differences bilaterally and that the United States stands ready to assist.

With that, both sides decided to move on. A senior state department official took pretty much the same line at briefing for reporters Wednesday on Khan’s recent visit. “The US ability to encourage a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan whether on Kashmir or other bilateral issues will be a function of Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory,” the official said.

But it seems President Trump did not get an update on his offer, and was still waiting for response. When asked by a reporter Thursday, Trump replied with question: “Have they accepted the offer or not?”

When told they had not, he said, “Well it’s really up to Prime Minister Modi.”

Trump spoke about his meeting with Khan then and said he believed the Pakistani and Indian leaders are “fantastic people” and “would imagine they can get along very well.”

And then went on to renew his offer and reiterate his conversation “frankly with India about it.”

A response was awaited from the White House to a request for why had the president repeated the offer despite India’s rejection of his previous offer, and if he did not indeed know of the Indian response.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-president-donald-trump-offers-to-mediate-on-kashmir-again/story-2M8ZKxW0WyKE3X58HqVxTL.html

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Interpol rejects India's application to blacklist exiled Muslim televangelist Zakir Naik

1 August, 2019

India will continue to pursue the issuance of an Interpol Red Corner Notice (RCN) against controversial Muslim televangelist Zakir Naik, after the international body rejected its application for a second time.

According to sources cited by India Today TV, Indian authorities are currently in negotiations with Interpol to ascertain why the application was unsuccessful.

Indian authorities accuse Naik, a popular TV preacher, of having laundered INR193 crore ($27,761,120) in illicit funds.

Naik is currently based in Malaysia, where he remains as a permanent resident on a Saudi passport.

A Red Corner Notice would place Naik on a list of wanted persons, however falls short of a full international arrest warrant for the preacher.

Naik - a popular televangelist and Islamic preacher who has tens of thousands of followers on social media - is also wanted by Indian authorities over alleged support for terrorism.

The 53-year-old claims there is a campaign against him, fuelled by the Hindu nationalist agenda of India's Modi government.

But Muslim-majority Bangladesh also took action against Naik's Dubai-based Peace TV network, following a deadly 2016 attack in Dhaka, saying the perpetrators may have been inspired by his sermons.

He has denied all charges and distanced himself from accusations of supporting terrorism, including by criticising the Islamic State group.

Full report at:

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2019/8/1/interpol-rejects-indias-application-to-blacklist-muslim-televangelist

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Muslim Law Board blames Opposition for enactment of Triple Talaq Bill

Jul 31, 2019

Lucknow: Questioning role of opposition in the passing of Triple Talaq Bill, All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana K R Firangi Mahali on Wednesday stated that if their members were absent from parliament during such time, there is no use of them being an MP.

Speaking to ANI, a day after Triple Talaq bill was passed in Rajya Sabha, Mahali said, "I blame the opposition for it, especially those parties which walked out. If during such time too, you will be absent in Parliament, then there is no use of being an MP."

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage,) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Upper House on the back of cracks in the opposition.

The Bill was passed with 99 members in its favour while 84 members voted against it in the final division. In the division on referring the Bill to the Select Committee, the government got 100 votes while 84 voted against.

Parties like AIADMK, which has 11 members and JDU, with six, walked out after recording their opposition to the Bill. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik led BJD supported the Bill.

At least five members of the Congress, some from Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP and others belonging to parties like BSP, YSRCP, and TRS abstained from voting. NCP's Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel and Jharna Das Baidya of CPM were also absent.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha. With the approval of the Rajya Sabha, the Bill is all set to become an Act after the Presidential nod.

Full report at:

https://asianage.com/india/all-india/310719/muslim-law-board-blames-opposition-for-enactment-of-triple-talaq-bill.html

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‘No agreement’ on Ayodhya, mediation report submitted; SC takes it up today

Aug 02, 2019

The three-member mediation panel looking into the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute has been unable to get the various parties involved in it to come to an agreement, one of the persons aware of the development said on condition of anonymity.

The panel submitted its report to the Supreme Court in a sealed envelope on Thursday, drawing the curtain on almost four-and-a-half month-long negotiations between Hindu and Muslim litigants to explore the possibility of an out-of-court settlement to the decades-long Ayodhya land dispute.

A five-judge constitution bench, comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, will on Friday go through the panel’s report and decide on the future course of action in the contentious case.

If the panel’s report admits that mediation has failed, the court will start hearing the case.

On July 17, the Supreme Court, in response to a plea from one of the original petitioners in the case that the mediation panel wasn’t making any progress, ordered the panel to “inform the Court the outcome of the mediation proceedings as on 31.7.2019 by 1.8.2019 to enable us to proceed further in the matter in terms of the present directions.”

Since March, the top court has put on hold all judicial proceedings in the case, giving mediation a shot. The title suit in the matter is pending before the Supreme Court since 2010 after the two sides approached it against the Allahabad high court’s verdict dividing the disputed land into three equal portions – 1/3rd each for the Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara, a religious denomination.

Hindus claim that the disputed site in Ayodhya marks the birthplace of the Hindu warrior-god Ram, and that the 16th century Babri Masjid that stood there was built on the ruins of a temple razed by Mughal invaders. The mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992 by activists of Hindu organisations that had been campaigning for the construction of a temple on the site.

The mediation panel, led by retired Supreme Court judge FMI Kalifullah, has as its members senior advocate Sriram Panchu and spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was appointed by the top court on March 8 to explore mediation in an attempt to “heal relationships” between communities. The Uttar Pradesh government and most Hindu parties opposed the initiative. But it was welcomed by Muslim parties.

The panel was initially given eight weeks to explore the possibility of a settlement, but on May 10, after the panel submitted an interim report to the court, the SC?granted it an extension of three months, till August 15.

Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Babri Masjid Action Committee, said, “I was not able to attend the final round of negotiations due to my prior commitments. But yes, I have come to know the panel has submitted its report. Representatives of four out of six Muslim litigants attended the last round of meetings.”

Last month, an application was filed by a plaintiff from the Hindu side seeking an early hearing on the matter, claiming the mediation proceedings had made no headway. “...in the three meetings participated {in} during a period of five months, neither any concrete proposal has come from anyone nor any headway is likely to be made,” the application said.

Full report at:

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/no-agreement-on-ayodhya-mediation-report-submitted/story-gdW9HCQxWfLuqpvi5zQgGJ.html

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NIA files charge sheet in Dec ’17 Pulwama attack

Aug 02, 2019

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday filed a charge sheet in an attack on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Lethpora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The attack killed five CRPF personnel.

An NIA spokesman said the charge sheet was filed at an NIA special court in Jammu in connection with the December 2017 attack. The spokesman said the charge sheet was filed against Fayaz Ahmad Magray of Lethpora, Awantipora; Nisar Ahmad Tantray of Dar Ganaie Gund, Awantipora; Syed Hilal Andrabi of Ratnipora, Pulwama and Irshad Ahmad Reshi of Ratnipora, Pulwama under different sections. The spokesman said the recce of the CRPF Group Centre in Lethpora was done by Noor Mohd Tantray, along with other accused during the second week of December 2017. “Before the attack could be launched, Tantray was killed in an encounter with security forces,” he said.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nia-files-charge-sheet-in-dec-17-pulwama-attack/story-4NQbeve2aC2ElxfJAIhe3I.html

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Delhi High Court tribunal upholds 5-year ban on SIMI

by Pritam Pal Singh

August 2, 2019

A tribunal of the Delhi High Court has upheld the ban imposed on the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and validated a Central government notification, issued in February this year, extending the ban for another five years.

The Indian government describes SIMI as a terrorist organisation and had banned it in 2001, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, for two years. The ban was since extended from time to time. The five-year ban was first imposed in 2014.

The ban was lifted in August 2008 by a special tribunal, but was reinstated by the Supreme Court on August 6, 2008 on national security grounds.

The tribunal, headed by Justice Mukta Gupta, on July 29 had dismissed SIMI’s contention that the government had no fresh evidence against it to extend the ban for another five years and held that there were valid reasons to ratify the ban imposed by the government under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand and advocates Sachin Dutta, Rajesh Ranjan and Balendu Shekhar appeared for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which had on February 21 issued a notification setting up a tribunal under the Act, after the five-year ban ended on January 31. The judgment has been sent in a sealed cover to the MHA.

Earlier, the tribunal, constituted under the UAPA, had issued notices to SIMI and its functionaries, asking them to explain why the organisation and its activities should not be declared unlawful. Under the law, the tribunal has to decide if there was sufficient cause to declare an organisation unlawful. The tribunal conducted its hearings in several cities across India, including Delhi, Pune and Chennai, and took on record the testimonies of various police officers and others to adjudicate the issue.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/delhi-high-court-tribunal-upholds-5-year-ban-on-simi-5871098/

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First since independence: ‘Nagar Kirtan’ with Guru Granth Sahib arrives from Pakistan

August 2, 2019

In a first since Independence, a ‘Nagar Kirtan’ (religious procession) that started from Nankana Sahib district in Pakistan’s Punjab province entered into Punjab on Indian side via the Attari-Wagah land route Thursday to mark the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism. The ‘Nagar Kirtan’ began from Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev in Pakistan, and crossed over to India in the afternoon with around 500 Sikh devotees who crossed the border carrying the holy Guru Granth Sahib on their head.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which had organised the procession, termed it a historic moment and a first in 72 years.

Read | Group of 500 Indian pilgrims to travel to Pakistan for Nankana Sahib

An SGPC official said the holy book was brought to Wagah border on a vehicle. A large cavalcade followed the procession amid a thick security cover.

The Pakistani authorities had provided a special permission to the Sikh community to take out ‘Nagar Kirtan’, which will culminate at Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/first-since-independence-nagar-kirtan-with-guru-granth-sahib-arrives-from-pakistan-5871092/

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ED attaches Rs 1.73 crore assets of Kashmiri businessman for terror financing

August 1, 2019

The Enforcement Directorate Thursday said it has attached assets worth Rs 1.73 crore of Kashmiri businessman Zahoor Watali in connection with a terror funding and money laundering case. It said a provisional order has been issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for attachment of Rs 1.48 crore worth immovable properties of Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali’s family and Rs 25 lakh of his deposits in a Jammu and Kashmir Bank branch in Delhi.

The ED case is based on a charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency as part of its probe against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed.

“Watali has been found to be involved in fund raising and as a financial conduit of Hurriyat leaders,” the ED had said earlier.

It said, in a statement, that probe revealed that the “Hurriyat leaders have received funds from Pakistan through conduits and also from the Pakistan High Commission directly.”

“This was substantiated by an incriminating document seized from the house of Ghulam Mohd Bhat during search,” it said. Bhat worked as a cashier-cum-accountant with Watali, the ED said.

“The document clearly indicates that Watali was receiving money from Hafiz Saeed (LeT and Jamaat-Ud-Dawa chief), from ISI, from the Pakistan High Commission at New Delhi and also from a source based in Dubai,” it said.

“Watali was remitting the same to the Hurriyat leaders, separatists and stone-pelters of Jammu and Kashmir. The said document has been maintained in regular course of his business and is signed by Watali,” it added.

This document, the ED said, indicated that the Hurriyat leaders were receiving funds from Pakistan through the officials of the Pakistan High Commission and through Watali.

The agency said the signature of Watali “has been verified” and as per the expert report, his signature on the stated document matches with his specimen handwriting as well as his admitted handwriting.

The agency has attached assets worth about Rs 9 crore in the case against the Kashmiri businessman till now as part of a crackdown against terror funding and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The agency said that the NIA probe has revealed that the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and other secessionists instigate the public, especially youngsters, to observe strikes and issue directives to the masses to hold anti-India protests, demonstrations and processions through press releases, newspapers and social media.

“This is done willfully to create such circumstances which will arouse disaffection among the people of Jammu and Kashmir towards the government of India,” the ED had said.

Watali, Hafiz Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and nine others have been accused by the NIA of “conspiring to wage a war against the government” and fomenting trouble in the Kashmir Valley.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ed-attaches-rs-1-73-crore-assets-of-kashmiri-businessman-for-terror-financing-5870542/

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MEA dismisses reports claiming arrest of Indian ‘spy’ in Pakistan

August 1, 2019

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said it did not receive any information from Islamabad on “unverified reports” claiming the arrest of an alleged Indian spy in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

News agency PTI, citing Pakistani local media, reported that Raju Lakshman “admitted” he is a spy after his arrest on Wednesday from Rakhi Gaj area of Dera Ghazi Khan district. He was later taken to an undisclosed location for investigation, PTI said.

Addressing the media during his weekly briefing, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We do not react to unverified media reports. We have not heard from the Pakistani side on this. ”

Quoting police, the Pakistani media reported that Lakshman was arrested while entering the town from Balochistan province, the same province from where Pakistan claimed it arrested former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Jadhav was sentenced to death on espionage charges by a Pakistani military court in 2017. However, the International Court of Justice last month ordered Pakistan to undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/indian-national-arrested-for-spying-claims-pakistan-police-5869914/

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Zomato Muslim rider case: What is the bond that police want signed?

by Milind Ghatwai

August 1, 2019

After a man in Jabalpur triggered outrage online by refusing to accept food from a Muslim delivery person, police have started the process to obtain a legally binding promise from him that he would not do anything that might lead to breach of peace. Once the man, Amit Shukla of Jabalpur, signs the bond, police will watch his activities over the next six months. They will take him into custody if he violates his promise.

The provision for a bond

The notice for the serving of the bond has been issued under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, under a provision commonly known as “Section 107/116”.

Section 107 CrPC deals with “security for keeping the peace”, and says: “When an Executive Magistrate receives information that any person is likely to commit a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity or to do any wrongful act that may probably occasion a breach of the peace or disturb the public tranquillity and is of opinion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding, he may… require such person to show cause why he should not be ordered to execute a bond, with or without sureties, for keeping the peace for such period, not exceeding one year, as the Magistrate thinks fit.”

Section 116 CrPC refers to “Inquiry as to truth of information”, and empowers the Magistrate to inquire into the truth of information on the basis of which action has been taken against a person who has been brought before him. Upon completion of the inquiry, the Magistrate may “direct the person… to execute a bond, with or without sureties, for keeping the peace or maintaining good behaviour until the conclusion of the inquiry, and may detain him in custody until such bond is executed or, in default of execution, until the inquiry is concluded…”

Reason for the action

Shukla had complained that Zomato, the app-based food delivery company, had “allocated a non-Hindu rider” to deliver his order. He had told Zomato that “I don’t need a delivery from a Muslim fellow”, and when asked to pay a fee for cancelling his order, threatened the company with legal action.

Zomato had retorted on Twitter, “Food does not have a religion. It is a religion”, and its CEO, Deepinder Goyal, had tweeted, “We are proud of the idea of India — and the diversity of our esteemed customers and partners. We aren’t sorry to lose any business that comes in the way of our values.”

Jabalpur Superintendent of Police Amit Singh told The Indian Express that Shukla’s tweet was against the spirit of the Constitution.

In case of default

Full report at:

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/zomato-muslim-rider-case-what-is-the-bond-that-police-want-signed-5870330/

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North America

 

US watching Tehran ‘very closely’ after renewing waivers for Iran civil nuclear projects

August 01, 2019

WASHINGTON: The United States said Wednesday it was extending waivers for three civilian nuclear projects in Iran, despite Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“This is a short 90 day extension,” said White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, a champion of the hawkish policy toward Tehran.

“We are watching those nuclear activities very, very closely, they remain under daily scrutiny,” he told Fox Business.

The projects include the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Arak heavy water reactor, which has been modified under the supervision of the international community to render it impossible to produce plutonium for military use, and the Fordow fuel enrichment plant.

The State Department downplayed the move, as it did when it last granted an extension in May, describing the waivers as “continued restrictions on the Iranian regime’s nuclear program.”

“The action today will help preserve oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran’s ability to shorten its ‘breakout time’ to a nuclear weapon, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

In reality, the move extends exemptions for the three Iranian civil nuclear projects, the State Department confirmed to AFP.

There was a debate in President Donald Trump’s administration about these exemptions, with hawks saying that after Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, it would have been logical to stop them in order to further increase the pressure on Tehran.

But the more moderate line has prevailed for the moment, so as not to upset the other signatories to the 2015 deal — China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain — amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran.

The 2015 agreement promised that world powers would assist Iran in developing civilian nuclear energy — the clerical regime’s stated goal for its atomic program.

The waiver announcement came as Washington imposed sanctions Wednesday on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1533956/world

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US prepares to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in deal with the Taliban

Aug 2, 2019

The US is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban, including a ceasefire and the renunciation of Al Qaeda.

The agreement would require the Taliban to start negotiating a larger peace deal with the Afghan government, The Washington Post reported.

It could decrease the number of US troops in the country from 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000, which is a similar amount to when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

The Trump administration has had eight rounds of negotiations with the Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

The talks have been led by envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born former US ambassador to Kabul.

"If the Taliban do their part we will do ours and conclude the agreement we have been working on," Mr Khalilzad tweeted on Wednesday.

"I am wrapping up my most productive visit to Afghanistan since I took this job as special rep."

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad

@US4AfghanPeace

Wrapping up my most productive visit to #Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep. The US and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps. And a negotiating team and technical support group are being finalized.

729

5:04 PM - Jul 31, 2019

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Officials said the agreement could be secured before the Afghan presidential election in September, although they said this could be delayed by Taliban leaders.

If the deal is approved, it would be a significant step towards ending an 18-year war – America’s longest and most expensive conflict.

“I would say that they are 80 or 90 per cent of the way there,” a US official told the Post. “But there is still a long way to go on that last 10 or 20 per cent.”

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid declined to comment about the likelihood of an initial agreement.

In recent months, the size of Afghanistan’s National Defence force has been dramatically reduced because of a bid by the US to stamp out “ghost” soldiers – fake names on payrolls.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/asia/us-prepares-to-withdraw-thousands-of-troops-from-afghanistan-in-deal-with-the-taliban-1.893668

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‘US cornered itself with Bolton, Pompeo Mideast policies: Analyst

Aug 1, 2019

The United States has cornered itself in the Middle East by following the policies of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, says an American political analyst.

Dr. E. Michael Jones, editor of the Culture Wars Magazine, said the administration of US President Donald Trump spent a long time chasing the anti-Iran agenda put forth by the two senior officials but the outcome was far from what it expected.

“The United States under the leadership of Pompeo and Bolton … have painted themselves into a corner in the Middle East,” Jones told Press TV on Wednesday, referring to the Trump administration’s aggressive approach towards Iran over the past months.

Ties between Tehran and Washington have deteriorated since May 2018, when Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Germany, France and Britain -- three European signatories to the deal, which was also signed by Russia and China -- have tried to keep it alive by protecting bilateral trade through a special payment channel.

The Trump administration has, without providing any evidence, blamed Iran for recent mysterious attacks against oil tankers sailing through the Sea of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz.

Despite Iran’s denial, Washington has escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf by sending military reinforcements to the region in order to curb what it refers to as “Iranian aggression.”

The two sides came close to military conflict after Iran downed an intruding US spy drone over its waters in the Persian Gulf.

Trump claimed days later that he had authorized an attack on Iran but called it off to avoid what he heavy casualty.

Unaffected, Iran warned the US president that it would shoot down more drowns if they violate its airspace again.

Jones said in his Press TV interview that Tehran had called Trump’s bluff.

“They [Pompeo and Bolton] sent the fleet but yet, when the attack was supposed to take place, Trump called it back at the last minute.”

“So all of this bluster has led up to an impasse because the Iranians have called their bluff,” he said.

Jones also discussed Pompeo’s recent offer to travel to Iran and directly talk to the Iranian people.

“First of all, why does he need to come to Iran to explain his position?” he asked. “He has the most powerful media organization in the world at his disposal.”

He said before heading to Tehran Pompeo needed to do one thing if he wanted Iranians to take him seriously: Remove anti-Iranian sanctions.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/01/602402/US-Iran-Bolton-Pompeo-Trump-Middle-East

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Europe

 

British Army to mobilise cyber spies to combat ISIS and Russia threats

Claire Corkery

Aug 1, 2019

The British Army is launching a new division specialising in hybrid warfare to combat cyber threats from hostile states and extremist groups.

Troops in the Sixth Division, as the new unit has been titled, will be trained in intelligence gathering, counter-propaganda and electronic warfare to be used against groups such as ISIS, who have traditionally used the digital sphere - and in particular social media - to share its propaganda and attract new recruits.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) said the new division was part of plans to “rebalance the Field Army” and to “defeat adversaries both above and below the threshold of conventional conflict”.

“This change will be integrated within broader defence, national and alliance efforts and enable the Field Army to operate and fight more effectively above and below the threshold of conflict,” the MOD said in a statement.

The troops moved into the Sixth Division, the British Army’s first dedicated information warfare formation, will come from existing units within the military as well as a small number from the country’s Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

No additional resources are involved in the move and the overall military personnel numbers would remain the same after the restructure, the MOD said.

The move comes amid an increasing rush to use cyber platforms as an offensive tool to target hostile activity. The US agencies and Britain’s GCHQ intelligence operation used an information warfare campaign to undermine ISIS’s message in northern Iraq and Syria. The combined forces used a redirection technique to debunk ISIS’s ideology by sending a user to sites countering the extremist group’s propaganda. GCHQ said the effort had contributed to the coalition forces efforts to defeat ISIS in the region.

“The character of warfare continues to change as the boundaries between conventional and unconventional warfare become increasingly blurred,” Lieutenant General Ivan Jones, Commander of the Field Army, said.

“The army must remain adaptable and evolve as a fighting force.

“The three complementary British army divisions harness the wide range of British army capabilities, providing choice to the government in defence of the UK’s interests ... The speed of change is moving at a remarkable rate and it will only get faster and more complex.”

Britain and the West have come under criticism for being slow to react to cyber threats from hostile states such as Russia.

More recently bad actors linked to Russia were able to spread fake news stories about the poor conduct of British Army soldiers during a military exercise in Croatia.

Lt Gen Jones revealed the Sixth Division’s formal inauguration at a flag-raising ceremony would take place in Wiltshire, southern England on Wednesday.

He described the ceremony as “a low key affair that rather befits a formation that will operate discreetly to shape perception and behaviour”.

https://www.thenational.ae/world/europe/british-army-to-mobilise-cyber-spies-to-combat-isis-and-russia-threats-1.893594

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Australia proposes new laws to keep extremists in prison

By Rod McGuirk?

Aug 02, 2019

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government introduced legislation to Parliament on Thursday that would give authorities more power to keep extremists behind bars after they have served prison sentences if they are still considered dangerous.

The move is a response to a 2017 siege in which a gunman who once trained with Muslim extremists, Yacqub Khayre, killed a Melbourne apartment building receptionist and wounded three police officers months after being released early from prison.

The bill has been introduced as the government is accused of trampling human rights and press freedom by ratcheting up it national security laws in response to the evolving threat posed by Muslim extremists such as the Islamic State group.

The federal and state governments agreed in late 2015 to create nationally consistent so-called continuing detention orders to keep convicted terrorists in custody after they have served their sentences.

Attorney General Christian Porter said the proposed new law would close a loophole that prevented some extremists from being kept in custody. The law would create a presumption against parole for convicted terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Khayre, a Somali-born refugee, took a woman hostage during a two-hour siege that ended with him being killed by police. The hostage escaped harm.

His convictions were for violent crimes unrelated to extremism. But under the proposed law, a judge deciding whether to parole him could have considered Khayre’s acquittal in 2010 on charges that he plotted a suicide attack on a Sydney army base and evidence that established during his trial that he had trained with extremists in Somalia.

Porter told Parliament the laws would apply to those inmates serving time for other offenses, but who have “clearly demonstrated terrorist sympathies.”

“The community was rightly outraged by Yacqub Khayre’s case and I believe the changes we are introducing today strike the right balance between protecting individual rights and freedoms, and protecting the community,” Porter said.

Parliament also extended the emergency powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the nation’s main spy agency, to secretly detain and interrogate extremists, despite opposition from lawyers and some lawmakers.

Those powers were introduced as a temporary measure after the al-Qaida attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. But successive governments have now extended their expiration deadline four times.

The emergency powers were to expire on Sept. 7, but Parliament on Thursday passed a bill that created a 12-month extension.

The government rejected an opposition proposal to limit the extension to three months. Rex Patrick, a senator from the Center Alliance minor party, said Thursday’s extension was the last that he would support.

Bret Walker, a lawyer who had been commissioned to recommended changes to the measures in 2012, urged the Parliament to reject a further extension.

“If national security is to be a mantra that commands some kind of falling in with government proposals, then the very least we can ask in return is a demonstration that government itself has been dealing urgently and profoundly with these problems,” Walker said.

The Law Council of Australia, the nation’s leading advocacy for lawyers, said it had grave concerns the powers had been extended without clear justification.

“These are some of the most far-reaching and extraordinary powers granted to any intelligence organization in a western democracy and should be repealed,” council president Arthur Moses said.

Full report at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/australia-proposes-new-laws-to-keep-extremists-in-prison/2019/08/01/d59f6fb2-b41e-11e9-acc8-1d847bacca73_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b1ba00bd3646

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Warrants say New Zealand attack inspired synagogue shooting

Aug 02, 2019

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Four days after a man killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand, court documents show a San Diego college student expressed regret in a text message that he missed watching the livestream video of the attack and praised the shooter’s writings as “spot on with everything,” and something everyone should read.

Five days later, authorities say John T. Earnest set a mosque on fire in Escondido, north of San Diego, where seven people on a retreat were sleeping inside and escaped safely. A month later, they say Earnest opened fire during a Passover service on April 27, killing one woman and injuring three people, including the rabbi.

The details in search warrants released Wednesday give the clearest indication yet that Earnest was inspired by shooter Brenton Tarrant and acted on that hatred within days of the New Zealand killings. A California state judge ordered the 338 pages unsealed at the request of five news organizations, including The Associated Press.

Earnest, 19, has been charged in state and federal courts that make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Federal authorities had previously released excerpts of Earnest’s online writings demonstrating his affection for Tarrant, but the search warrants give a detailed timeline showing how quickly the New Zealand attack turned his violent thoughts into action. On March 19, four days after the New Zealand massacre, Earnest sent a text message to a person, whose name was redacted from the documents, complaining none of the links to the livestream video of the massacre were working and added, “I could’ve seen it live damnit,” according to the search warrants.

He went on to talk about Tarrant’s writings, saying “I’ve only read a little but so far he’s spot on with everything.”

On March 20, investigators in the search documents said he sent another text about the writings saying, “I think it’s important that everyone should read it.”

On March 24, Earnest drove to a mosque in Escondido and doused it with gasoline and sparked a blaze that charred a wall, authorities said. The fire started at about 3:15 a.m. when seven people on a spiritual retreat were inside sleeping, according to investigators. They saw flames coming through the crack of one of the doors, grabbed water and quickly extinguished it.

On April 6, Earnest opened an Amazon account and used the online retailer to make purchases for his attack on the synagogue, according to court documents. He bought an ammunition holder worn across the chest, a military-style duffel bag, a “GoPro” camera, a tactical helmet and other items.

The day before the shooting, he bought a Smith & Wesson AR-15 rifle from a San Diego gun shop, according to federal charges. Officials have said he bought the gun legally under federal law.

California bars anyone from buying a rifle under the age of 21 unless the person is a member of the military or has a hunting license. According to the search warrants, authorities seized a hunting certificate from his family’s home, indicating Earnest may have obtained a hunting license to buy the weapon.

Earnest walked into the Chabad of Poway shortly before 11:30 a.m. on April 27 and shot several rounds before appearing to struggle to reload the gun, officials said.

An off-duty Border Patrol agent grabbed the handgun of a parishioner and fired at least four rounds as Earnest ran out the door. The agent later put the handgun into a black prayer bag, according to the warrants.

Earnest killed a 60-year-old woman and injured three others, including the rabbi and an 8-year-old girl.

Full report at:

https://www.apnews.com/7efa7c16be6d4b82b110e44104f26f80

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UN Security Council continues to report on al Qaeda-Taliban alliance

BY THOMAS JOSCELYN

July 31, 2019

Since July 2018, the UN Security Council has published at least four reports highlighting the ongoing and close relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The Trump administration is currently seeking an accord with the Taliban, under which the US will set a withdrawal schedule in exchange for unspecified “counterterrorism assurances.” But the UN’s reports illustrate why the Taliban is not a credible counterterrorism partner.

The latest report was submitted in mid-July by the monitoring team responsible for tracking al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Al Qaeda “considers Afghanistan a continuing safe haven for its leadership, relying on its long-standing and strong relationship with the Taliban leadership,” the monitoring group’s analysts reported. Al Qaeda “members continue to function routinely as military and religious instructors for the Taliban.”

As FDD’s Long War Journal has assessed for years, al Qaeda has been able to regenerate its capabilities and extend its influence by partnering with other jihadist groups rooted in the region. To give just one example, chosen from many, we assessed in 2009 that al Qaeda’s influential allies included Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Haqqani Network. The latter is a powerful subgroup within the Taliban. Siraj Haqqani is both the leader of the Haqqani Network and the Taliban’s deputy emir, a position that gives him broad power across the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Ten years later, the UN Security Council’s monitoring team reports that al Qaeda “continues to cooperate closely with” both LeT and the Haqqani Network.

“Under Taliban patronage,” the report reads, al Qaeda “is keen to strengthen its presence in Badakhshan Province, in particular in the Shighnan area bordering Tajikistan, as well as in Barmal in Paktika Province.”

Another way in which al Qaeda has entrenched itself in Afghanistan is by working with, and through, Central Asian jihadist groups.

“In the north of Afghanistan, in Badakhshan Province, a number of Central Asian groups affiliated with al Qaeda are operating,” the UN monitoring team notes. These Central Asian organizations include: the predominately Uzbek group, Khatiba Imam Al-Bukhari (KIB), which has “approximately 50 fighters” in Afghanistan and also fights in Syria; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which splintered as a result of the Islamic State’s rise, but still has “up to 100” fighters waging jihad under the Taliban’s banner; the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which “has an estimated 350 fighters” in northern Afghanistan; and Jamaat Ansarullah, a small Tajik group headed by a jihadist known as Asliddin Davlatov.

As a result, “Central Asian countries remain concerned about the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan.”

The UN Security Council’s report makes it clear that all of these al Qaeda-linked Central Asian groups “operate under the auspices of the Taliban, mainly as instructors and explosives experts.” These same outfits “cooperate with organized criminal networks engaged in drug trafficking across the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, also using those routes to infiltrate fighters into Central Asia.”

Overall, al Qaeda “remains resilient” around the globe and is actually “stronger than” the Islamic State in several geographic regions.

The UN’s monitoring team says that Ayman al-Zawahiri’s “health and longevity,” as well as the group’s “succession” in the case of his demise, “are in doubt.”

It isn’t clear what intelligence the UN’s monitoring team relied upon regarding Zawahiri’s health. He is elderly and it is certainly possible that he suffers from ill-health. But FDD’s Long War Journal notes that Zawahiri regularly produces video and audio messages, far more frequently than his rival Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This is an indication that Zawahiri is still quite active. And other reports concerning the poor health of jihadist leaders, including Osama bin Laden, have proven to be false.

Earlier this year, a jihadist in Syria posted letters detailing al Qaeda’s succession plan as it stood several years ago. Two of the four men have since been killed in U.S. drone strikes, but the other two, who are reportedly operating inside Iran, are still alive. It is likely that al Qaeda has a similar succession plan in place today.

The UN Security Council’s latest report is broadly consistent with the three previous reports filed on the same issues. For more on those analyses, see FDD’s Long War Journal reports:

Al Qaeda’s alliance with the Taliban ‘remains firm,’ UN Says (based on a July 2018 UN Security Council report)

UN: Al Qaeda continues to view Afghanistan as a ‘safe haven’ (based on a Jan. 2019 UN Security Council report)

Full report at:

https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2019/07/un-security-council-continues-to-report-on-al-qaeda-taliban-alliance.php

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Germany’s top court upholds ban on anti-Erdogan poem

Ayhan Simsek

01.08.2019

BERLIN

Germany's highest court has upheld a ban on large sections of a satirical poem which mocked Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Federal Court of Justice, the highest German court for civil and criminal law, on Wednesday rejected an appeal by comedian Jan Bohmermann and upheld the previous verdicts by a local court and a higher regional court in Hamburg.

Bohmermann sparked uproar in 2016 with his controversial poem, which was widely criticized for being racist and abusive, exceeding the limits of freedom of expression.

Erdogan's lawyers had filed a complaint against the comedian.

The Hamburg court ruled in 2017 that many passages in the poem breached the Turkish leader’s personal rights. It prohibited the German comedian from repeating certain sections of the poem, which included racial stereotypes, sexual references and insults.

While underlining the significance of artistic freedom and freedom of expression, the court concluded that certain parts of Bohmermann's work exceeded the limits of permissible criticism.

"According to the Federal Constitutional Court, artistic freedom is unconditional but not unbounded,” the court said in its ruling.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/germany-s-top-court-upholds-ban-on-anti-erdogan-poem-/1546632

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Pakistan

 

PM Imran Striving To Transform Pakistan Into Islamic Welfare State: Special Assistant To Prime Minister

Aug 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan Thursday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan was striving to transform the country into an Islamic welfare state as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam.

Addressing the participants of the exhibition of rare photographs related to Pakistan Movement and history, she said that during the past one year, the PTI government took multiple steps for bringing stability and now it would focus on development and progress of the country, following the model of State of Madina.

She said “Unfortunately we have got physical independence but we are yet to get economic independence.”

She said Imran Khan, with the support of masses, has successfully broken the nexus of two political families who were ruling the country turn by turn, which was big achievement.

The SAPM appreciated the Directorate of Electronic Media and Publications for digitalization of the archives of rare photographs of Quaid-e- Azam and Pakistan Movement.

She said the archived photographs were great asset of the nation which should be displayed to new generations so that they may learn about the great sacrifices, rendered by our forefathers for creation of the motherland.

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/01/pm-imran-striving-to-transform-pakistan-into-islamic-welfare-state-firdous/

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Hasil Bizenjo's remarks implicating ISI chief 'unfounded', says DG ISPR

August 02, 2019

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Friday denounced claims made by Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo who said Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed's "people" were behind the opposition's failure in the Senate's no confidence vote against Sadiq Sanjrani.

In a tweet posted on Maj Gen Ghafoor's official Twitter account early today, the ISPR chief said that Bizenjo's remarks were "unfounded" and did not "serve democracy".

"Remarks by Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo implicating head of national premier institution are unfounded. The tendency to bring entire democratic process into disrepute for petty political gains doesn’t serve democracy," Maj-Gen Ghafoor said.

The joint opposition had last month submitted a no-confidence resolution against Senate Chairman Sanjrani and had named Bizenjo as its candidate for the position.

The resolution was tabled yesterday by Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and was comfortably passed by opposition senators, with 64 voting in its favour. But the opposition suffered a shock defeat when it fell three votes short to dismiss the Senate chairman. Needing only 53 of the 64 senators' votes to send Sanjrani packing, the opposition fell three short when the result of the secret ballot was announced.

After the vote, as Bizenjo was walking out of the Senate building, a journalist asked if the senator knew the 14 turncoats who had voted against their party's stated stance.

Full report at:

https://www.dawn.com/news/1497629/hasil-bizenjos-remarks-implicating-isi-chief-unfounded-says-dg-ispr

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Qureshi assures Khalilzad of Pakistan’s support to Afghan peace process

Aug 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will continue to play a supportive role for the progress and successful outcome of peace efforts aimed at ending Afghanistan’s nearly 18-year war, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday.

He was talking to US special representative for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, who called on the foreign minister in Islamabad ahead of his visit to Doha for talks with the Afghan Taliban.

The US envoy during the meeting with Qureshi shared the outcomes of the 7th round of US-Taliban talks in the Qatari capital and his recent engagements in Kabul. Khalilzad had termed his latest visit to Afghanistan as the “most productive” since he took up the office of the special representative.

Foreign Minister Qureshi “welcomed the progress achieved in the talks and the Intra-Afghan Peace Conference in Doha in which all participants agreed upon a basic roadmap”, a Foreign Office press release said.

It was noted during the meeting that ultimately, the intra-Afghan dialogue would be vital to reach an agreement that brings peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Qureshi told Khalilzadad that Pakistan will continue to play its supportive role for “smooth progress and successful outcome” of the peace efforts.

“It was also stressed that taking the Afghan peace process forward remained a shared responsibility,” the FO statement said.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/01/qureshi-khalilzad-discuss-progress-on-afghan-peace-process/

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PM chairs civil-military huddle to review outcome of US visit

Aug 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday held a high-level meeting with top civil and military officials to review the outcome of the premier’s US visit.

Imran expressed satisfaction over his US visit and acknowledged President Donald Trump’s vision for achieving peace in the region.

He further conveyed that the US president is convinced that bilateral ties between both nations could help achieve this goal.

The civil-military huddle also discussed measures to execute the decisions agreed upon during the US visit and ensure further coordination between Islamabad and Washington.

High-ranking officials including Chief of the Army General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Zaidi and other cabinet members were present at the occasion.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/01/pm-chairs-civil-military-huddle-to-review-outcome-of-us-visit/

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Improving ties with Saudi Arabia a top priority, PM Imran tells MBS

Aug 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan during a telephonic conversation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Thursday stressed that developing relations with Saudi Arabia was a top priority for Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran telephoned the Saudi crown prince on Wednesday evening and offered his condolences on the demise of King Salman’s elder brother, Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

The premier described Saudi Arabia as a trustworthy friend of Pakistan and thanked the crown prince “for his efforts and support to Pakistan and its interests”.

The crown prince “praised the distinguished relations” between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and lauded the efforts of the two countries in strengthening and developing these relations in diverse fields.

He also expressed a keen interest of the Saudi leadership in supporting Pakistan in all fields.

Since coming into power last year, the PTI government led by Prime Minister Imran has been cultivating strong ties with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

In February this year, the powerful Saudi leader visited Pakistan on the invitation of the premier and was given a red carpet welcome upon arrival.

Full report at:

https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/01/improving-ties-with-saudi-arabia-a-top-priority-pm-imran-tells-mbs/

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Pakistan: Senate chairman Sanjrani survives vote of no-confidence

August 01, 2019

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad: In a major setback for the joint opposition, incumbent Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani Thursday survived a no-confidence motion to oust him from the office.

Top three opposition parties namely Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had claimed 66 votes would be cast in favour of no-trust motion as one member Ch Tanveer was reportedly hospitalised and could not make it. But the results shocked them as only 50 votes were polled in favour of the motion.

As per rules, in the 104-member upper house of the Parliament, simple majority (53 votes) was required to send the chairman packing.

Even earlier when the motion for no confidence was moved, 64 members had stood in favour of voting. However, in the secret ballot the results were quite different.

The motion against Sanjrani was filed by the joint opposition on July 9, after it reached a consensus on ousting Sanjrani from the top post in a ‘Rehbar’ Committee meeting. It named Hasil Bizenjo — another senator from Balochistan — to head the Upper House as its joint candidate.

The government senators, who are standing behind Sanjrani, in a tit-for-tat move tabled a resolution against Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Saleem Mandviwalla, who is the deputy chairman. However, it has yet to name its nominee for the post though.

Number Game:

Opposition: (67)

PML-N: 30

PPP: 21

National Party (NP): 5

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP): 4

JUI-F: 4

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI): 2 (The party abstained from voting)

ANP: 1

Ruling alliance (36)

PTI: 14

Balochistan Awami Party (BAP): 8

Ex-FATA: 7

Muttahida Qaumi Party-Pakistna (MQM-P): 5

PML-5: 1

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M): 1

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/pakistan-senate-chairman-sanjrani-survives-vote-of-no-confidence-1.65576392

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Southeast Asia

 

Preacher Zakir Naik in limbo but Malaysia is not throwing him out

August 1, 2019

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, pointed out that although Indian-born preacher Zakir Naik does pose a problem to Malaysia’s multi-religious fabric, Putrajaya cannot send him anywhere.

Dr Mahathir said other countries do not want him. Malaysia won’t send him back to India fearing the preacher will not get a fair trial.

The Malaysian Premier said this an interview with Turkish international news channel TRT World.

In a veiled warning to Zakir, Dr Mahathir said, “We have a multiracial and multi religious population in Malaysia. We don’t want anybody who comes up and expresses extreme views about race relations and about other religions.”

Non-Muslims and some Malays have criticised the government for ‘harbouring’ the preacher, claiming he is a danger to religious harmony.

Some blame him for speaking in favour of radical Islam, which his supporters deny vehemently. India also describes Zakir as an extremist. Western nations consider him an advocate of hate speech.

But according to Dr Mahathir, Malaysia has no choice but to allow Dr Zakir Naik to live in Malaysia. Zakir holds a Malaysian permanent resident permit.

He is wanted by the Indian authorities but New Delhi did not get Interpol to issue a red notice against the preacher, making it difficult for Malaysia to execute India’s request for his extradition.

New Delhi is again pressing Interpol for the red corner notice.

The latest attempt by Indian authorities to get Interpol to issue the red notice failed. Zakir Naik says Interpol’s refusal to issue the red notice is proof of India’s trumped-up charges.

Zakir made a seven minutes speech on YouTube thanking God and Interpol for not issuing the so-called ‘red corner notice’.

A letter dated July 22 signed by Secretariat to the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files said that Zakir is “not subject to an Interpol Red Notice or diffusion”.

In the video, Zakir explains that religion orders people to speak the truth and there is no other virtue that is more valuable than that.

Permanent residents in Malaysia cannot do politics or get involved in political parties but it does not bar them from speaking on religious matters.

There are no indications Zakir will face any ban from public speaking, which is the bone of contention in the Pakatan Harapan government. -/TISG

http://theindependent.sg/preacher-zakir-naik-in-limbo-but-malaysia-is-not-throwing-him-out/

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Rein in preachers who cause racial and religious discord

Moaz Nair

August 2, 2019

God has populated the world with diversity – by design or default. There was never a moment in history when all members of the human race subscribed to a single religion. This can never happen. Even the prophets of those days could not accomplish this.

A preacher cannot claim to be an expert in comparative religion when he keeps on disparaging, overtly or covertly, other religions while propagating his own faith. A wise theologian would not denounce other religions. He only delves deep into his faith of choice.

From the academic perspective, theology focuses more closely on the study of God and faith rather than in the critical investigation of religions. It is often more faith-based, while comparative religious studies is more analytical, but in no way do both these disciplines, if adhered to by rational minds, would deplore the practices of different religions.

Studying theology and comparative religion means taking on challenging inquiries about the meaning of religion and not despising another religion to live up to one’s ego.

This is certainly unlike philosophy which advocates the rational investigation of truth. Religion often makes the same kind of truth claims but does not claim to base it on reason or rationality. Instead it is more often based on dogmatism. Faith in religion thus becomes a very subjective or even a sensitive matter and this most self-seeking preachers prefer to ignore.

Comparative religion should only espouse the uniqueness of each religion and see the commonalities and differences. The sub-set of the commonalities becomes the universal values for all. It is a systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices of the world’s religions. This branch of study does not come from any religious text. It only began in the 19th century – beginning in the late 1950s and 1960s in the Western world.

Unfortunately, when a preacher starts belittling other religious in the guise of being an expert in comparative religion he shows he has not fit into the real discipline of philosophy. What more, if the preacher, from a societal perspective, fails to help build bridges between faiths in a multi-religious world. The followers are often led astray by a preacher who focuses on the differences between religions whilst asserting that only his religion should be accepted and not the others.

The danger in this approach is that there will be followers who can easily succumb to the teachings and become intolerant as they will blindly conform to what the preacher has expounded – right or wrong. This kind of evangelisation will influence the followers to sow hatred for other religions. If uninhibited it can lead to activities such as the destruction of human lives and places of worship, as they will claim that they are inspired by the so-called preacher. Indeed, this is a very dangerous phenomenon in any society. They are not putting an end to the religion they hate but will do indescribable harm to innocent human lives and also property.

When the human race can see the commonalities and not the differences in religions only then can there be tolerance, understanding and harmony in a multiracial society. This does not only happen between religions but also within a single religion. The long schism between Sunni and Shia, and numerous other sects in Islam, can be compromised if the preachers and followers can see their commonalities and discard the differences. A society can only strive when people take into account their shared aims and not their differences. For this to take place they need to be educated in a worldly way with an analytical approach to religion.

If education in school is based on pure indoctrination, this will breed insular or inward looking citizens as they will grow up with a skewed mind looking always down upon values alien to them. Only if religion is approached with reason, and philosophically and not dogmatically, will it be able to create rationality in the minds of the people. Religion by itself is not a tangible entity. It’s an abstract entity built in one’s mind. Religion therefore has to be approached with a critical and open mind.

Full report at:

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2019/08/02/rein-in-preachers-who-cause-racial-and-religious-discord/

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Malaysian lawmaker apologises for proposing law to protect men from being seduced

AUG 1, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A Malaysian lawmaker apologised on Thursday (Aug 1) after his proposal for legislation to protect men from being "seduced" by women into committing sex crimes such as rape sparked a storm of criticism.

Mr Mohamad Imran Abdul Hamid, a senator from the country's ruling coalition, made the comments during a debate in Parliament's upper house on Wednesday.

"I propose... a sexual harassment Act to protect men from the actions, words and clothing of women, which can cause men to be seduced to the point they can commit acts such as incest, rape, molestation, (watching) pornography," he was cited as saying by local media.

"This is important; we (men) need to be protected. The actions, clothing of women can seduce us into breaking the law."

The retired admiral's remarks drew swift criticism from campaigners in the Muslim-majority country and the leader of his own Parti Kealilan Rakyat (PKR), Mr Anwar Ibrahim, called on him to retract them.

Mr Mohamad Imran apologised and withdrew his proposal. "Although my intention was sincere, I did not expect it to be perceived as a huge mistake that offended many women and men as well," he said.

Women's rights campaigner Marina Mahathir was among those who criticised his comments, saying they went "over the line".

"He's giving excuses for men behaving badly," the activist, who is also the daughter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, told AFP.

"It just points to the type of toxic environment that women in politics, and in other areas, have to live in."

Women's rights group Sisters in Islam tweeted that sex crimes were "despicable", adding that "men must be held accountable if they commit these crimes, regardless of what women wear".

Full report at:

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysian-lawmaker-says-sorry-for-proposed-anti-seduction-law

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Bin Laden Family ‘Henchman’ Arrested in Philippines, a Growing Islamist Bastion

By Daniel Victor

Aug. 1, 2019

A Jordanian man once considered a financier for Al Qaeda and a “henchman” of Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law was arrested in the Philippines in July, officials said on Thursday, reinforcing concerns that Islamist militants are making a base in the country.

Mahmoud Afif Abdeljalil, 51, was arrested on July 4 in Zamboanga, a coastal city at the southwestern tip of Mindanao, the nation’s second-largest island. Mr. Abdeljalil had false documents under an assumed name, Jaime Morente, the chief of the Bureau of Immigration, said in a statement.

Mr. Abdeljalil, whom the authorities called “a former henchman” connected to the bin Laden family, has been in government custody since the arrest.

“We are going to deport him for being an illegal entrant as he has no record of arrival, after he was arrested and deported in 2003 for being an undesirable alien,” Mr. Morente said.

In 2003, the authorities in the Philippines said that Mr. Abdeljalil was a close associate of Mohammed Khalifa, a Saudi businessman and bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and that the two were involved in financing the Qaeda network through charity organizations.

The authorities said they began months of monitoring Mr. Abdeljalil after he and an Algerian companion were flagged at a military checkpoint in Zamboanga in August last year. Mr. Abdeljalil said under questioning that he had returned to the country in 2007.

The C.I.A. has drastically weakened Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11 attacks; the organization has not carried out a large-scale attack in years. American officials revealed on Wednesday that Hamza bin Laden, a son of Osama bin Laden who was seen as a future Al Qaeda leader, was killed sometime in the first two years of the Trump administration.

But the Islamic State has risen in the Philippines, even as its presence decreases in the Middle East. It has especially gained a foothold in Mindanao, where the dense wilderness and weak policing have made it a haven for jihadists.

In 2017, Islamic State militants took over the city of Marawi in Mindanao. The Philippine Army reclaimed it five months later after pitched battles in which at least 900 insurgents were killed.

In January, an Indonesian couple killed at least 23 people and injured more than 100 in a suicide bombing at a cathedral on the southern Philippine island of Jolo. The couple had unsuccessfully tried to travel to Islamic State-held territory in Syria in 2016.

Son of Qaeda Founder Is DeadJuly 31, 2019

Full report at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/01/world/asia/philippines-al-qaeda-arrest.html

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Chinese Authorities Order Beijing Restaurants to Remove Islamic Symbols From Hoardings

August 1, 2019

New Delhi: In a bid to ‘sinicize’ its Muslim population, authorities in China’s capital Beijing have ordered halal restaurants and food stalls to remove Arabic script and all symbols associated with Islam.

Employees in as many as 11 restaurants and food stalls in the Chinese capital admitted to foreign news agency Reuters that they had indeed been asked to remove all Islamic symbols from the hoardings.

The officials also made some restaurant owners blacken the script off their hoarding.

A Reuters quoted one food stall owner, “They said this is foreign culture and you should use more Chinese culture.”

Such a campaign is being read as a new phase in Xi Jinping’s China where myriad religions are being expected to realign according to traditional Chinese culture. This removal spree also included Middle Eastern-style domes on many mosques.

Not just Muslims, but several Christian churches also came under the scanner of the government, who ordered shut many underground churches, and tore down crosses which they deemed ‘illegal’.

But the Muslim dimension takes precedence in the current state of affairs since reports pertaining to Muslim Uighur and the ill-treatment meted to them surfaced in 2008.

There were reports of ethnic clashes and even cleansing in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the government justified its actions as imperative to weed out religious extremism.

The same Reuters reports quotes Analysts claiming that the ruling Communist Party is concerned that foreign influences can make religious groups difficult to control.

Full report at:

https://www.india.com/news/world/chinese-authorities-order-beijing-restaurants-to-remove-islamic-symbols-from-hoardings-3733830/

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Depok council to propose replacement for ‘religious city’ draft bylaw

August 1, 2019 

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction on Depok city council in West Java will oppose the controversial “religious city” draft bylaw to guarantee the freedom of religion and ensure religious harmony for all the city’s residents.

The “religious city” draft bylaw was proposed by the Depok administration earlier this year in an effort to protect families through the elimination of, among other things, corruption, adultery, substance abuse, gambling, abortion, pornography, riba (usury), heresy, the exploitation of women and children, and disturbing public order.

Council speaker Hendrik Tangke Allo of the PDI-P, however, claimed that its proposed draft bylaw on the freedom of religion and religious harmony would guarantee the freedom of religion and religious harmony for all the communities in Depok.

“What people need is the guarantee of freedom and religious harmony for communities. The city administration is obliged to stipulate things like that and ensure it is implemented well," Hendrik said on Thursday, tempo.co reported.

The religious city draft bylaw currently states that residents have the right to pray according to their own religion, and employers must also provide a space and time for their employees to pray.

According to Article 11(3) of the bylaw, every Muslim must prioritize the sharia economy and avoid riba.

Article 14 (1) states that residents must dress modestly according to their respective religious teachings and within the “polite” norms of the Depok community. The next clause states that residents must respect and appreciate this sartorial etiquette and the boundaries of their respective religions.

Full report at:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/08/01/depok-council-to-propose-replacement-for-religious-city-draft-bylaw.html

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South Asia

 

Afghan govt forms 15-member team to negotiate with Taliban

SAYED SALAHUDDIN

August 02, 2019

KABUL: As the US and the Taliban inch closer toward signing a peace deal, the Afghan government announced formation of a 15-member team for direct talks with the group.

Kabul is yet to release names of the delegation’s members, which US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has insisted be inclusive, representing various Afghan sides with senior government members as its members.

The Taliban, who have held at least seven rounds of talks with Khalilzad and other US diplomats since last year without any involvement of Kabul officials, have always insisted that the group would not hold direct talks with the government and that its delegates be part of a nationwide team.

“Political, social and ethnic diversity have been observed within the 15-member delegation which will represent the Islamic Republic in peace negotiations while taking into account the values and achievements of the Afghan people,” the newly formed Ministry for Peace Affairs said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Khalilzad said he was on his way to the negotiations venue in Qatar and was ready to close a deal to end the war that began in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.

“I’m off to Doha, with a stop in Islamabad. In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on,” Khalilzad said in a tweet.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that there were some “minor details to be discussed” and that the group was hoping there would not be any obstacle in the final breakthrough.

“But it also depends how serious the Americans are (in signing the final deal),” Mujahid told Arab News.

The Taliban have been pushing for US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and the issue has been the focus of various rounds of talks between the two sides. Taliban delegates have in the past repeatedly pressed the US to agree on setting a timetable for troop pullout.

However, Khalilzad clearly said in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News on Thursday: “We will not reach peace until there is a complete agreement and the concerns of all stakeholders vis-a-vis the peace agreement are addressed and a complete and permanent truce is announced.”

“We have not reached an agreement with the Taliban (on a timetable for troop withdrawal) and certainly it is an issue in which the Kabul government also has a say. One of the issues that has not been  decided on is this one.”

While striking a deal with the Taliban, Khalilzad said Washington will sign a separate agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government, but gave no further details.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran American diplomat, was appointed last year to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban, who now control more territory than at any point since their ouster.

The Taliban have consistently been adamant that they would not talk to the Afghan government about the future of the country until Washington agreed to withdraw its troops.

Khalilzad has been in Kabul, where he met President Ashraf Ghani, top security officials, senior opposition leaders, diplomats and civil society members to discuss the peace process before striking a deal with the Taliban.

“Wrapping up my most productive visit to Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep. The US and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps,” he said on Twitter.

The Afghan government, which relies on US funding and troops for its security, says a hasty troop pull-out is risky for the country.

President Donald Trump, ahead of the US election next year, is keen to withdraw US troops, and US diplomats say they are pushing for a final deal to be signed ahead of September while controversial Afghan presidential polls are slated for Sept. 28th.

A number of presidential Afghan nominees say they would prefer to see peace first and to hold the polls when the Taliban can also participate, but Ghani who is standing for re-election says the vote should be the priority.

Former President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that while the US reliance on Pakistan for peace and its push for striking separate deals with the Taliban and the government had to be questioned, Afghans need to take charge of the peace process.

He also spoke about the need to postpone the elections until after the peace deal.

“I want the election when it is in our hands,” he commented. “I am in no-way optimistic for (presidential) elections but consider it a conspiracy… Afghans don’t own this election. We can have a fair election when we have (full) authority of this land,” Karzai said told a news conference.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1534281/world

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US, Taliban set to finalize 'agreement' ahead of intra-Afghan peace talks

Jul 31, 2019

The chief U.S. negotiator for Taliban talks said he is heading to Doha, Qatar, for his eighth round of negotiations with the militant group, and it could be the final one before a deal is reached.

"If the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on," tweeted U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad from Kabul, Afghanistan.

Finalizing a deal could mean the beginning of the end for the United States' nearly 18-year old military involvement in the country, even as it continues to face violence from the Taliban and high civilian casualties from U.S. and Afghan forces.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he expected "significant progress" in the "next handful of weeks," but that the U.S. is committed to a "conditions-based withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as we can execute it."

Those comments to reporters traveling with him to Asia came one day after he said Trump had directed him to begin drawing down U.S. troops before the 2020 presidential election: "That's my directive from the President of the United States... So yes, it's not only my expectation, it would be job-enhancing," he said Monday in Washington.

It seems that in addition to nearing a deal with the Taliban, Khalilzad also previewed a second agreement to be signed between the U.S. and Afghan governments. Calling his week-long stop in Kabul his "most productive" yet, he tweeted that the two countries "have agreed on next steps."

A big part of his visit to Kabul was helping the Afghans finalize a negotiating team that they hope will meet the Taliban in the coming weeks and provide any insights based on his extensive time meeting its leadership in Qatar.

The negotiating team won't be an official government delegation because the Taliban doesn't recognize and refuses to meet the government, but it will include government officials, civil society leaders, and important ethnic and provincial figures.

The 15-member delegation will represent the country and take into "account the values and achievements of the Afghan people," the Afghan government said in a statement Wednesday, adding it "is fully committed to ensuring a lasting, just and honorable peace and has demonstrated this commitment in practice over the past five years."

The U.S. side has said that this kind of intra-Afghan peace negotiation is one of four key pillars it is seeking in its own talks with the Taliban, and it must be included for the others, such as a U.S. troop withdrawal, to take place.

But the timing of Afghan peace talks and the level of U.S. commitment to seeing them through is uncertain. Pompeo has said repeatedly it is up to the Afghan people "to decide the future of their own country," as he put it in Kabul in June.

On Sunday, a senior Afghan official said the government and Taliban would meet in two weeks time, a historic announcement that was immediately rejected by the Taliban. Khalilzad seemed to side with the Taliban, saying talks between the militant group and "an inclusive and effective national negotiating team consisting of senior government officials, key political party representatives, civil society and women" would occur only after the Americans "conclude our own agreements" with them.

Full report at:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-taliban-set-finalize-agreement-ahead-intra-afghan/story?id=64682102

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Bangladesh court indicts six in secular blogger''s murder case

01 AUGUST 2019

By Anisur Rahman

Dhaka, Aug 1 An anti-terrorism court here on Thursday indicted six people, including a sacked army Major, in the brutal murder of a Bangladesh-born American blogger in 2015, five months after police wrapped up the investigation into the sensational killing.

Blogger and science writer Avijit Roy, 42, was hacked to death in February 2015 with the machete-wielding assailants also wounding his wife.

Roy was one of many similar attacks on liberal writers in the Muslim-majority country.

Dhaka Anti-Terrorism Tribunal Judge Mujibur Rahman set September 11 as the date for starting the trial of the case.

"I am setting September 11 for (next) hearing of the Avijit Roy murder case," Rahman said after framing charges against the accused who are all operatives of the outlawed Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).

Of the six suspects, four were escorted by police to the dock while sacked Major Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque and another accused are on the run and are to be tried in absentia.

The tribunal, however, issued fresh warrants for their arrest while police''s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit was entrusted with the charge of investigating the case.

A manhunt is underway for the fugitive major and the government has announced a bounty on his head after he appeared as the mastermind of several other murders including that of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan.

The ABT, said to be ideologically inclined to al-Qaeda, is one of the two main militant outfits active in Bangladesh.

The other is the Islamic State-affiliated Neo-Jamaatul Muhahideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB), which carried out the July 1, 2016, attack on an upmarket cafe in Dhaka that killed 22 people.

Earlier, reports suggested that at least eight people took involved in the killing, but police said they eventually found only six people involved in the crime.

Bangladesh''s High Court last year confirmed two ABT operatives to death for the 2013 murder of another blogger, the first of a string of deadly attacks on secular writers and activists.

Since 2013, Bangladesh has witnessed a number of Islamist attacks on foreigners, liberals and religious minority with the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda making competing claims.

The government, however, has consistently dismissed their claims, saying foreign terrorist groups have no presence in Bangladesh and the attacks were carried out by homegrown outfits.

Bangladesh banned ABT in 2015 but its operatives regrouped under Ansar al-Islam, which too has been outlawed.

Full report at:

https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/bangladesh-court-indicts-six-in-secular-bloggers-murder-case/1587945

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Afghan Special Forces destroy 3 factories of suicide bombing vests in Paktika

01 Aug 2019

The Afghan Special Forces destroyed three factories which were producing suicide bombing vests in Paktika province.

The Special Operations Corps in a statement said the Special Forces discovered and destroyed the factories during an operation in Gomal district.

The statement further added that the Special Forces also killed 4 terrorists during the same operation.

Furthermore, the Special Operations Corps said the Special Forces also confiscated and detonated several suicide bombing vests and various types of military kits.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/afghan-special-forces-destroy-3-factories-of-suicide-bombing-vests-in-paktika-03526/

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Imran Khan asks Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor to contact Afghan leadership

01 Aug 2019

The Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has instructed the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Shah Farman to establish contacts with the Afghan leadership in a bid to boost bilateral relations.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Pakistan said Mr. Khan emphasised that better relations at all levels were in the interest of the peoples of the two countries for achievement of common objectives.

The governor called on the prime minister here at the Prime Minister’s Office during which Shah Farman was entrusted with the responsibility, according to local media outlet The News.

The governor called on the prime minister here at the Prime Minister’s Office during which Shah Farman was entrusted with the responsibility.

The outlet also added that the KP governor would make contacts with his counterparts in Afghanistan for strengthening the mutual relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In this connection, Shah Farman will extend invitations to different governors of Afghan provinces to visit Pakistan and will also pay a visit to Afghanistan.

This comes as the Mr. Khan had vowed to improve relations with the neighbors of Pakistan including Afghanistan before assuming office as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Full report at:

https://www.khaama.com/imran-khan-asks-khyber-pakhtunkhwa-governor-to-contact-afghan-leadership-03524/

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Afghan official: Bombing in Kabul kills two policemen

1 August 2019

An Afghan official says a bomb has gone off near a police checkpoint in the capital of Kabul, killing at least two policemen.

Nasrat Rahimi, an Interior Ministry spokesman, says Thursday’s explosion also wounded three policemen.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but both the Taliban and the ISIS are active in Kabul and regularly target government forces, officials and civilians in the Afghan capital.

Meanwhile in western Herat province, Shandand district chief Hekmatullah Hekmat says a shootout between two rival Taliban groups killed two women and a child who were caught in the crossfire.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2019/08/01/Afghan-official-Bombing-in-Kabul-kills-2-policemen.html

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Arab World

 

Tahrir Al-Sham Terrorists Flee Key Base in Hama after Heavy Defeat

Aug 01, 2019

The Syrian army forces continued clashes with Tahrir al-Sham terrorists in the Eastern parts of the town of Tal Malah in Northern Hama on Thursday, retaking control of Wadi Hasmin region and the farms near the town of al-Zakah.

Meantime, a military source said that the Syrian army troops have regained control of Wadi Hasmin region, broken the first defense line of Tahrir al-Sham from al-Zakah and opened a new front towards the town of al-Latamineh as the militants' key base in Northern Hama.

He added that a large number of terrorists were forced to flee al-Latamineh as the army is advancing in the region.

The source also said that a group of 17 militants were killed in clashes in al-Zakah, adding that the army forces targeted the terrorists' supply lines in Hasraya and al-Arbaeen with artillery fire.

Meantime, the Syrian air force launched heavy attacks against the terrorists' positions in al-Latamineh, Kafr Zita, Latmin and Dawir al-Akrad in Northern Hama, destroying several of their bases and military vehicles and killing the militants inside.

In a relevant development on Monday, the Syrian army launched military operations against the terrorist groups in Northern Hama, retaking control of two strategic regions.

The Syrian army's special forces engaged in heavy clashes with Tahrir al-Sham terrorists in Northwestern Hama, killing several militants and regaining control of the strategic region of Tal al-Malah.

Then, they continued their advance towards al-Jabin and gained back control of the town.

Meantime, a Syrian field source reported that the Syrian army cleansed the Mahradeh-al-Saqilbiyeh strategic road after taking back control of al-Jabin, adding that other Syrian army troops are still engaged in clashes with the militants in al-Zawiqat, Talat al-Syriatel and 1154 heights near the border with Turkey in Northeastern Lattakia.

He added that the Syrian army soldiers are now targeting the terrorists' moves near the strategic hills of Kabani towards areas of clashes in Northern Lattakia, killing a number of them and destroying several of their bases.

https://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13980510000239

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Syrian regime agrees ‘conditionally’ to Idlib truce: State media

1 August 2019

The Syrian government has agreed to a truce in the northwestern region of Idlib on condition a Turkish-Russian buffer-zone deal is implemented, state news agency SANA reported Thursday.

It cited a military source who announced the regime’s “approval for a ceasefire in the deescalation zone in Idlib starting from tonight” on condition rebels withdraw forces and weaponry from a buffer zone as per a September accord struck in the Russian resort of Sochi.

The announcement came as talks resumed in Kazakhstan between rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.

Most of Idlib province and parts of Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia, which currently hosts some three million residents, are controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

The region is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by the Turkish-Russian deal, but it has come under increasing fire by Damascus and its backer Moscow since the end of April.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused Turkey of dragging its feet in implementing the deal, which provided for a buffer zone up to 20 kilometers wide separating rebel and regime fighters.

Government forces and rebels have also clashed on the edges of the buffer zone, with battles killing nearly 2,000 combatants, including more than 930 regime loyalists over the same period, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

Hospitals, schools, and markets have been hit in the fighting.

Moscow’s Syria envoy on Thursday welcomed the move by Damascus.

“Of course, we welcome the Syrian government’s decision to introduce a truce,” Alexander Lavrentyev was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency after the first day of peace talks in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/01/Syrian-regime-agrees-conditionally-to-Idlib-truce-State-media.html

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Islamic State attacks kill seven security forces in Iraq -police

1 August 2019

TIKRIT/SULAIMANIYA, Iraq, Aug 1 (Reuters) - At least seven members of Iraq's security forces were killed and 16 wounded overnight in two separate attacks by Islamic State militants, police said on Thursday.

Three members of the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and two policemen were killed in an attack in the Sayed Gharib area north of Salahuddin province's Dujail district, 50 km (30 miles) north of Baghdad, late on Wednesday, police said.

The PMF is an umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shi'ite militias that formally report to Iraq's prime minister.

Separately, a mortar attack against Kurdish forces in Kola Jawi village of Sulaimaniya province's Kalar district at midnight killed two members of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's Asayish internal security forces and wounded 14, an Asayish source said.

Islamic State has not claimed responsibility for either attack.

Iraq declared victory over Islamic State, which once held large swathes of the country, in December 2017, but the hardline Sunni militants have since switched to hit-and-run attacks aimed at undermining the Baghdad government.

Full report at:

http://news.trust.org/item/20190801090020-5zn5g/

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386 children in have died in Syria's Al Hol camp since January, says monitor

July 31, 2019

Poor healthcare provisions and lack of food have contributed to the deaths of 386 children in northern Syria’s Al Hol camp for families of suspected ISIS supporters since January, according to a monitor.

The overcrowded camp, run by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Arab alliance, was established for those who either fled the group's final stretch of territory in Syria or who were captured in the final weeks of the military campaign against the group that concluded in March.

The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the toll on Wednesday, saying that poor conditions at the camp were largely responsible. The site currently holds nearly 80,000 women, children and elderly people.

In April, US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria announced the fall of ISIS’s last stretch of their once-sprawling state project.

However, tens of thousands of people surrendered during the final push and while military-aged men were taken to Kurdish prisons, the women, children and elderly were moved to camps like Al Hol.

Aid agencies have warned of dire conditions and the Kurdish forces have said they cannot cope with the scale of the issue. They have called on countries to repatriate their nationals to ease the burden.

Insecurity is also a pressing issue. Guards have been stabbed, stones thrown at aid workers and the black flag of ISIS has been flown in plain sight. Reports suggest the wives and children of the 'caliphate' are sticking by the group’s ideology despite being stuck in the desperate Syrian camp.

“As a result of the poor living conditions, the shortage of medicines and food and the acute shortage of medical care caused by the failure of international organizations, at least 386 children under the age of 18 have died between the beginning of January this year and Sunday, July 21,” the observatory said.

Nationals of dozens of countries were reported to have lost children, including the UK, Belgium, India and others.

Earlier this year, Shamima Begum – a British schoolgirl who ran away from home in 2015 to join ISIS with friends – spoke to the media from Al Hol camp. She said she wanted to return home with her children, including a new-born.

However, then UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid moved to revoke her citizenship to prevent her from going back to the UK. On March 8, it was reported that her youngest child had died of pneumonia.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the situation in Al Hol was stretched beyond capacity and that as well as poor living conditions people had also been killed in fights – both with security forces and each other.

Meanwhile, in Idlib province on Wednesday, regime air raids hit the outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun and helicopters dropped barrel bombs on several towns in the north of Hama province.

The regime and Russia have been pounding the last rebel-held enclave in Syria for 93 straight days as Damascus seeks to consolidate gains elsewhere in the country.

However, the government offensive has made little progress into the region and most gains have been quickly reversed by the rebels.

Full report at:

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/386-children-in-have-died-in-syria-s-al-hol-camp-since-january-says-monitor-1.893164

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Iraqi security forces shell 3 Islamic State outposts in Diyala

by  Mohammed Ebraheem

Jul 31, 2019

Diyala (IraqiNews.com) – Iraqi security forces bombarded on Wednesday three terrorist hotbeds of the Islamic State militant group in Diyala province, a security source said.

Speaking to the privately-owned Baghdad Today news website, the source said that the mortar attack came after monitoring suspicious activities by Islamic State militants in al-Mutaibeeja, located on the border between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces.

The source warned that IS cells remain active in some parts of the province, urging an immediate action to eliminate remaining IS militants as soon as possible.

Iraq declared the collapse of Islamic State’s territorial influence in November 2017 with the recapture of Rawa, a city on Anbar’s western borders with Syria, which was the group’s last bastion in Iraq.

Full report at:

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/iraqi-security-forces-shell-3-islamic-state-outposts-in-diyala/

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Egypt calls for Palestinian state during Kushner visit

1 August 2019

Egypt’s president has reiterated his support for the creation of a Palestinian state during talks with White House envoy Jared Kushner.

Kushner is visiting the region to rally support for the administration’s efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Donald Trump’s administration has not endorsed a two-state solution, which has long been seen internationally as the only viable path to peace.

Egypt issued a statement Thursday saying President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told Kushner that Egypt supports efforts aimed at resolving the conflict “on the basis of a two-state solution and the creation of Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, is promoting the economic component of a yet-unreleased peace plan.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/01/Egypt-calls-for-Palestinian-state-during-Kushner-visit.html

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Mideast

 

Saudi Arabia steps up aid for Yemen child soldiers

August 02, 2019

NEW YORK: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) is expanding its research and work to help rehabilitate child soldiers in Yemen.

The center outlined its expanded role while taking part in workshops with the advisory experts group of the International Coalition for the Rehabilitation of Child Soldiers, held at Columbia University in New York under the patronage of the UN.

The group gathers research and knowledge from non-government organizations and academics working in or studying the rehabilitation and reintegration of child soldiers.

Meanwhile, KSrelief signed an agreement to implement a project that will distribute garments, toys and gifts to Yemeni children during Eid Al-Adha. The project will help 15,000 children from poor families.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1534311/saudi-arabia

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US extends waivers for countries to continue civil nuclear work with Iran

August 1, 2019

(CNN)The State Department announced late Wednesday it would extend waivers for countries in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to continue their participation in civil nuclear projects with Tehran.

"The action today will help preserve oversight of Iran's civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran's ability to shorten its 'breakout time' to a nuclear weapon, and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. The announcement came the same day that the US announced sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

National security adviser John Bolton said in an interview on Fox Business Wednesday that the waiver renewal would be for 90 days.

"I think the idea here is we are watching those nuclear activities very, very closely," Bolton said.

Two administration officials said Tuesday that the waivers were expected to be renewed, and one of the officials said that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin argued the waivers should be extended during a recent White House meeting on the issue. The Washington Post first reported that the waivers extension was expected.

Under the waivers, the countries party to the 2015 deal will continue to conduct research and do non-proliferation work without facing US sanctions.

Earlier this month, Sigal Mandelker, under secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, made the case that the Trump administration's current "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran is working. Administration officials have argued the US sanctions push will force Iran to change its behavior.

A rebuffed offer

"Without a doubt, the sanctions are working," Mandelker said at the Aspen security forum. She pointed to Iranian oil exports being at their lowest levels ever and Iranian proxies publicly appealing for donations.

At the beginning of May, the State Department extended the waivers for 90 days instead of 180. It also revoked two waivers that allowed Iran to ship its excess heavy water for storage and swap its enriched uranium for natural uranium.

The move will likely come as welcome news to European allies, who have sought to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) amid escalating tensions and as Iran has reduced its compliance to the landmark nuclear deal.

The US has said it would negotiate with Iran "without preconditions" -- a claim that the Iranians have rebuffed. In an interview last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he would travel to Tehran if necessary. The spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry dismissed the suggestion as disingenuous psychological warfare.

"We didn't see any sincerity any seriousness in that," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Monday in an interview with Press TV, Iran's international English language television network. "They are not trying to have a serious agreement, and this is in line with psychological warfare that Mr. Pompeo and some of other US officials" conduct.

On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted that people should "just remember, the Iranians never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!"

The historically inaccurate observation appeared to be pulled from a 2017 opinion article about the Iran nuclear deal written by National Security Adviser John Bolton -- and drew swift pushback.

Zarif responded on Tuesday with his own tweet including a screenshot from the Bolton article, highlighting the phrase, "Iran has never won a war, and never lost a negotiation."

Above it, Zarif wrote that "for millennia, Iranians have outlasted every aggressor." He continued: "The US has spent $7 trillion & rivers of blood in our region, in its biggest failure since Vietnam."

"@realDonaldTrump: reject #B_Team's fake history & its thirst for #ForeverWar," Zarif tweeted in a reference to Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Javad Zarif

?

@JZarif

For millennia, Iranians have outlasted every aggressor.

But, the US has spent $7 trillion & rivers of blood in our region, in its biggest failure since Vietnam. @realDonaldTrump: reject #B_Team's fake history & its thirst for #ForeverWar.

Diplomacy=prudence; never weakness.

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7:25 PM - Jul 30, 2019

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"Diplomacy=prudence; never weakness," Zarif concluded in the tweet.

The US issued the waiver decision as the White House continues efforts to build a maritime security force to patrol the Persian Gulf.

On Monday, Pompeo said the effort to build a maritime force to protect international shipping in the Gulf was taking more time than the US would like -- in part, a reflection of early British and ongoing German resistance to the plan, in favor of a European security effort.

"We're going to build out a maritime security plan," Pompeo said at the Economic Club in Washington. "It will take more time than we wish it would take, but I'm very confident that the world understands its importance, that America is prepared to be a significant part of that, but we need countries from all across the world to assist us in protecting commercial transit."

The US, UK and other allies will meet in Bahrain on Wednesday to continue talks about how best to protect Gulf shipping, a British Ministry of Defense spokesman said after a meeting at the US Central Command military headquarters in Tampa, Florida, last Thursday.

While the UK had expressed interest in working with the French on a European led maritime security effort, the new Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK is interested in working with the US on its security initiative. Raab said he had spoken with Pompeo after his appointment as Foreign Secretary on July 24 about freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Full report at:

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/30/politics/iran-civil-nuclear-waivers/index.html

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Iran sanctions effective, “we will enforce them” everywhere: Pompeo

2 August 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said Washington would continue to enforce sanctions against Iran.

The sanctions on Iran have been effective and “we will enforce them” everywhere, he said.

Pompeo was speaking at a regional youth leadership program in the Thai capital of Bangkok during a wider meeting of Southeast Asian nations with world powers.

Pompeo also said “decades of bad behavior”" from China have hampered free trade and prompted tariffs and other action from Washington.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/02/Iran-sanctions-effective-we-will-enforce-them-everywhere-Pompeo.html

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Troubled UN agency for Palestinians names new deputy head

2 August 2019

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Thursday announced the appointment of an acting deputy chief, after a report on alleged ethical abuses by top management prompted donors to freeze funds.

“Christian Saunders has been appointed as acting Deputy Commissioner-General (DCG), pending the recruitment of a full replacement to the outgoing DCG Sandra Mitchell,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a statement.

The internal ethics probe accused Mitchell of manipulating the system to find a well-paid job for her husband at the agency last year as it suffered through a funding crisis.

Her management style is alleged to have included bullying, cutting those she disliked out of decision-making and avoiding checks and balances, it says.

She quit last week citing “personal reasons”.

Thursday’s UNRWA statement made no mention of the internal report, seen by AFP, which describes “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including some involving UNRWA’s top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

The confidential survey says the allegations include senior management engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives”.

Switzerland said on Tuesday it was suspending funding to the agency pending the findings of UN investigators into the allegations.

The Netherlands, one of the agency’s main European donors, followed suit the following day.

UNRWA was set up in the years after more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their lands during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel.

It provides vital schooling and medical services to millions of impoverished refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

In 2018, the United States suspended and later cut all funding for UNRWA, causing a financial crisis that threatened to see its schools and hospitals closed.

Its UN mandate is set to be debated later this year.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, along with Israel, accuses UNRWA of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Full report at:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/02/Troubled-UN-agency-for-Palestinians-names-new-deputy-head.html

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Iran is ready for the worst in efforts to salvage nuclear deal: Rouhani

1 August 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that his country’s officials were ready for the worst as they tried to salvage their nuclear deal with world powers, but he was sure they would eventually prevail.

“We have a hard battle ahead, but we shall surely win,” Rouhani said on live television.

Iran faces an uphill battle as US sanctions were reimposed after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2019/08/01/Iran-is-ready-for-the-worst-in-efforts-to-salvage-nuclear-deal-Rouhani.html

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Al-Qaeda attack kills 19 soldiers in south Yemen: security officials

2 August 2019

At least 19 soldiers were killed on Friday in south Yemen in attacks by al-Qaeda, security officials said.

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2019/08/02/Al-Qaeda-attack-kills-19-soldiers-in-south-Yemen-security-officials.html

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Africa

 

Somalia: Kenya Wants UN to Designate the Al-Shabaab As a Terrorist Group

31 JULY 2019

The Kenya government says it will seek the United Arab Emirates support in its efforts to push the UN in designating the Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabaab as a terrorist group in order to help focus international attention towards combating their violent extremism campaign, local media reported on Wednesday

Speaking after meeting with UAE delegation in Nairobi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affair Macharia Kamau said Kenya will submit a proposal to have the UN Security Council list Al-Shabaab as terrorist organization.

"We will formally be submitting a requesting seeking UAE's support in listing Al-Shabaab under UN Resolution 1276. This is important to bring the global efforts in tackling the group," Kamau was quoted by the East African newspaper as saying after signing bilateral security agreements with the UAE delegation.

"It has caused serious havoc, not just in Kenya but the region and the world in general," he added.

Al-Shabaab, which is a local franchise of Al-Qaeda in Somalia is not recognized as a terrorist group by the UN. Under Resolution 1276 of 1999, the UN Security Council targeted the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS and their leaders, sanctioning the groups and those associated with it. Kenya now wants Al-Shabaab to be included in that list.

Kenya's decision comes at a time when DusitD2 luxury hotel in Nairobi, which was the scene of the last terror attack in January, reopened on Wednesday for the first time since that deadly attack claimed 21 innocent lives and left scores others injured. Al-Shabaab were responsible for the attack then and continues to carry more attacks especially around Kenya's border with Somalia. Wajir, Mandera and Garissa counties in the Somali inhabited North Eastern region are the worst affected by Al-Shabaab attacks.

Kenyan troops are also part of the 22,000 strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping mission with around 4000 forces based in southern Somalia's Jubaland State that borders Kenya to the east.

https://allafrica.com/stories/201908010268.html

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Islamic State says killed or wounded more than 40 Nigerian soldiers: Amaq

JULY 31, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State said via its Amaq news agency that it killed or wounded more than 40 soldiers in the northeast Nigerian state of Borno in two separate attacks on Tuesday.

The group said militants attacked a military post in Baga and killed at least 15 soldiers before carrying out a second attack on an army barracks in the town of Benisheik, where they killed or wounded around 25 more.

Locals and military sources told Reuters there were clashes between insurgents and soldiers in the state on Monday and Tuesday. Reuters was unable to immediately verify the number of people killed or injured in those clashes.

An army spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls requesting comment.

More than 30,000 people have been killed in northeast Nigeria since 2009 in an Islamist insurgency.

Full report at:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-security/islamic-state-says-killed-or-wounded-more-than-40-nigerian-soldiers-amaq-idUSKCN1UQ18F?il=0

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Mozambique leader vows to hunt down jihadist attackers

31/07/2019

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi vowed Wednesday to hunt down and unmask attackers involved in a string of deadly assaults that have battered the country's northern region and killed least 250 people.

For nearly two years, suspected Islamists have staged raids on remote communities in the gas-rich, Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado province, torching homes and sometimes even beheading civilians.

The identity of the militants remains unclear and their motives unknown.

"We will fight and hunt them," Nyusi told lawmakers during an address.

"So far they have never showed their faces, but the security forces are hunting and fighting them relentlessly," Nyusi said.

"We hope that the arrests in recent weeks will help us discover who they are," he said without specifying when the arrests occurred or the numbers of suspects detained.

A senior police source in the northern province confirmed there had been recent arrests but refused to give details.

The attorney general late last year said at least 400 suspects had been arrested since the attacks began in October 2017.

But only a few dozen have been tried and convicted.

The Islamic State claimed involvement in three recent insurgent attacks, according to SITE Intelligence, an organisation that monitors extremist activity.

But analysts have expressed doubt over the claim while police have dismissed it.

Some experts attributed the violence in Cabo Delgado to a group known in Arabic as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama -- although it is usually referred to as "Al-Shabaab" despite having no known link to the Somali jihadist group of the same name.

Full report at:

https://www.france24.com/en/20190731-mozambique-leader-vows-hunt-down-jihadist-attackers

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Sudanese forces kill 4 protesters in renewed violence

Aug 2, 2019

At least four protesters were killed and many injured by gunfire in the Sudanese city of Omdurman on Thursday, opposition medics said, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to pile pressure on the country's military rulers.

Organizers had called for a million-person march in cities across Sudan in response to the killing of young protesters in El-Obeid, southwest of the capital Khartoum, earlier this week.

Sudan has been gripped by months of political turmoil that climaxed in the army overthrowing long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April. Protesters have kept up their rallies since then, pressing the army to hand over to civilians, accusing the security services of violence and decrying the shortages and economic hardships that triggered the unrest in the first place.

Thursday's killings, reported by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, one of the main protest groups, came as opposition leaders said there had been some progress in talks with the military on a deal to form a new government after Bashir's ousting.

Despite signing a deal in July which secured a three-year transition period and a joint sovereign council with a rotating leadership, talks over the wording of a constitutional declaration on the changes have stumbled.

"The agreement is really now just around the corner," Satea al-Hajj, a leader in the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition of opposition groups, said in a press conference in Khartoum on Thursday.

Negotiations over the declaration began again late on Thursday night.

The opposition had demanded that members of the sovereign council, which is intended to lead the country until elections are held, should not be granted blanket immunity from prosecution for past crimes.

But FFC leaders said on Thursday they had agreed that they could be granted only 'procedural immunity' - meaning top officials could be tried with the permission of two-thirds of the legislative council.

The opposition leaders said both sides also agreed another key point, reaffirming that the parties included in the FFC would have 67% of the legislative council while the rest will be granted to other opposition and political groups.

Sudan's ruling military council did not immediately confirm the details of the agreements.

In Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, protesters chanted "it's too bad, it's too bad, we don't have an army," expressing anger at the army for not protecting protesters.

Footage posted on social media also showed protests breaking out in El-Obeid, the state capital of North Kordofan state, and Wad Medani, the state capital of Jazeera state, southeast of the capital on the Blue Nile.

The FFC has accused military and paramilitary forces of firing on the high school pupils as they protested over bread and fuel shortages in El-Obeid on Monday.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the main protest group and a leading voice in the FFC, accused the military of failing to protect civilians and of either being complicit in or neglecting to protect against roadblocks preventing "the masses from achieving the goals of the revolution."

A senior army commander said a security force assigned to guard a bank was responsible for killing children protesting near there, the official SUNA news agency reported on Thursday.

The bank guards were a government security force.

Opposition groups have also accused the main paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces, of killing scores of protesters since Bashir was ousted and the RSF's role remains a point of contention.

Full report at:

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/08/02/602455/Sudan-military-protesters-killed

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Sudan: Soldiers arrested for killing school boys

Mohammed Amin  

01.08.2019

Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) said paramilitary troops of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) were involved in the killing of six school boys in Obied city on Monday.

In a statement, TMC said that the involved personnel have been arrested and investigation has been launched in the killing of the children.

Full report at:

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/sudan-soldiers-arrested-for-killing-school-boys/1546980

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