Books and Documents

Islamic World News (16 Jun 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Muslims in Europe Are Ill-Advised To Buying Churches and Turning Them into Mosques

Muslims in Europe Are Ill-Advised To Buying Churches and Turning Them into Mosques

Muslim Men Face Pressure to Ignore Their Mental Health Problems in Britain

Trump: London Needs a New Mayor, Khan Is a Disaster

US Sanctions on Turkey May Open Pandora's Box at NATO

Muslim Students Bag 80 Percent Of Government Scholarships Offered Under 20 Central Government Schemes In 2018-19

Sri Lanka to Set Up Religious Reconciliation Council to Dispel the Suspicions and Misconceptions among Religions

‘Maldives Should Not Try Balancing Ties with India and China’: Nasheed Former President

Pak Will Engage With India on 'Basis of Equality': Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Saudi Crown Prince Warns Against 'Exploiting' Khashoggi Murder

Rouhani: Iran To Continue Scaling Back Its Nuclear Deal Commitments



Muslims in Europe Are Ill-Advised To Buying Churches and Turning Them into Mosques

Muslim Men Face Pressure to Ignore Their Mental Health Problems in Britain

'Islamophobia cannot solve problems of Europe or Asia'

UK opposition leader targeted over comments on Iran escalation

British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

Bulgaria: Ottoman-Era Mosque Opens after Renovation

UK: Corbyn says no evidence of Iran role in attacks

Labour's Corbyn hit by online backlash over criticism of UK stance on Iran


North America

Trump: London Needs a New Mayor, Khan Is a Disaster

US Sanctions on Turkey May Open Pandora's Box at NATO

Trump Administration Is Itching For a Fight with Iran: Political Analyst

Bernie Sanders warns against Trump's 'pretext for war' with Iran

Iran should remain firm and resolute against Trump and his henchmen: Scholar

US looking into university funding from Qatar and other outside sources



Muslim Students Bag 80 Percent Of Government Scholarships Offered Under 20 Central Government Schemes In 2018-19

J&K Terror Funding Case: NIA Nails Top Separatist Leaders

3 more held in Tamil Nadu ISIS module bust

2 ISIS men nabbed in 2018 were in touch with Pakistani recruiter

Revealed: Pakistan's Jammu & Kashmir terror fund trail

Terror 'gravest threat' in Asia, says S Jaishankar

Muslims fear displacement from Jama Masjid area as Agra Metro project moves forward

Ayodhya panel meets AIMPLB delegation

Multi-agency body to track all terrorism cases in Jammu and Kashmir


South Asia

Sri Lanka to Set Up Religious Reconciliation Council to Dispel the Suspicions and Misconceptions among Religions

Nine Lankan Muslim Ministers Who Quit Likely Reconsidering Decision on Request of Buddhist Leaders

Afghan Special Forces arrest another Taliban fighter holding Pakistani NIC

U.S. Peace Talks with the Taliban: Will Trump Succeed in Ending America’s Longest War in Afghanistan?

Airstrikes kill 5 Taliban; Special Forces detain 3 in Helmand province

7 Taliban militants killed, 10 arrested in Logar and Ghazni operations

12 Taliban militants killed in Special Forces raid, airstrike in Zabul

Kabul city resident arrested for cooperating with the terrorists: MoI

Rohingya crisis can destabilise region if not solved: Bangla Prez

No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani


Southeast Asia

‘Maldives Should Not Try Balancing Ties with India and China’: Nasheed Former President

Maldives seek foreign help to deal with IS fighters

Dr Mahathir visits Albukhary Foundation Gallery at British Museum in London

Meeting with Malaysian students to kick off Dr M’s busy UK schedule



Pak Will Engage With India on 'Basis of Equality': Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Father of Pak Bomb Moves HC, Seeks Freedom of Movement

PM discusses with aides accountability, strategy to counter opposition

PM orders resumption of hepatitis programme

Putin appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace, says Qureshi

India hasn’t come out of its poll mindset, Pakistan will engage on ‘basis of equality’, says Qureshi


Arab World

Saudi Crown Prince Warns Against 'Exploiting' Khashoggi Murder

Human Rights Watch Declares Houthi Abha Airport Attack A ‘War Crime’ As Another Missile Targets City

Syrian Refugees Staying In Lebanon for Economic Reasons, Not Security Fear: Bassil

Saudi crown prince lashes out at Iran over tanker attacks

Mortar attack on Iraqi base home to US troops, no casualties

Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces: monitor

Saudi Crown Prince: We don’t want war but we won’t hesitate to deal with threats

Wildfires cause explosion at Syrian military zone in Damascus suburbs

Iraqi base home to US troops comes under mortar attack north of Baghdad



Rouhani: Iran To Continue Scaling Back Its Nuclear Deal Commitments

UK-Iranian Nazanin begins fresh hunger strike in Tehran jail

Saudi air defence forces intercept Houthi drone targeting Abha

Turkey slams southern EU nations on drilling bid off Cyprus

Iran, Turkey presidents express opposition to sanctions, unilateralism

Yemeni drones target airport installations south of Saudi Arabia

Yemeni retaliation expected after Saudi jets bomb Sana'a

Turkey’s Erdogan sees Russian S-400s coming from July: NTV



Sudan Says Military Council Suspends Decree on UN Sites

Somalia: Double Car Bomb Blasts Kill 9, Wound 25

Sudan prosecutor: Omar al-Bashir to be referred to trial after appeal period

UN: Dozens of migrants stranded off Tunisia for 15 days

Sudan: Al-Bashir due in court within week

Kenyan Police Blame Al-Shabab for Blast Near Somalia That Left Officers Dead

Three police reservists abducted in Wajir by suspected Al-Shabaab militants

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/new-age-islam-news-bureau/muslims-in-europe-are-ill-advised-to-buying-churches-and-turning-them-into-mosques/d/118896



Muslims in Europe Are Ill-Advised To Buying Churches and Turning Them into Mosques


Irresponsible acts, with no thought given to their consequences, by members of Europe’s Muslim communities are fuelling hatred and violence. The trend of buying churches and turning them into mosques is giving the extreme right in Europe one more card to consolidate its dominance over Europe by inciting hostility against Muslims.

The controversy sparked in Germany about Muslim communities buying churches to convert them into mosques revealed the communities’ lack of understanding of the turbulent situation of European society and the rise of Islamophobia.

A Christian association called Friends of the Protestant Church in Berlin published a report on the conversion of ten churches this year in Germany into mosques. It said the phenomenon was not new but it was repeated and deliberate.

At the end of 2018, the Nur Mosque was inaugurated in Hamburg after a Muslim investor bought a church and donated it to the Islamic centre of the city. Similar actions were carried out in the Netherlands, Britain and France. The most prominent examples of the actions were the openings of Al Fateh Mosque in Amsterdam, the Sultan Ayoub Mosque and the Osman Ghazi Mosque in the Netherlands. In France, the Dominican Church in Lille and the Saint Joseph Church in Paris have been turned into mosques.

The association said: “What the Muslims are doing is not wise behaviour.”

This controversy serves to highlight the great crisis experienced by Muslim communities in Europe as they were joined by recent waves of immigrants. More and more, the communities are coming under the fire of angry populist right-wing politicians in Europe.

The controversy raised by the behaviour of some members of the Muslim communities, which some see as a provocative gift that stimulates the birth of more extreme right-wing, anti-Muslim discourse, comes at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric based on the concept of Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe in conjunction with an increase of anti-immigration discourse by populist political parties.

These parties target Muslim immigrants in particular under the thin pretext of taking anti-terrorism prevention measures and stopping the threat of terrorism from extremist Islamic groups.

Observers said the biggest problem for Muslims in Europe is that they cannot properly integrate in Western societies. This simple reality opens opportunities for radical Islamist groups to spread extremist ideologies among the Muslim communities and transform citizens dissatisfied with the West into time bombs.

Security reports reveal that many Islamic centres in Europe, controlled by radical Islamist groups, consider buying a church and turning it into a mosque as one form of jihad for the sake of Allah, no less valued than self-sacrifice.

Militant Islamist groups are finding dozens of churches for sale across Europe and encouraging Muslim businessmen to buy them so they can be converted into mosques. They follow a provocative style in announcing the conversions and reinforce feelings of anger and resentment by publishing pictures of the removal of the cross and replacing it with a crescent, to mark “a tribute to the Islamic religion.”

Europe is going through an identity crisis, not only at the political and economic levels but also at the religious and ideological levels. This has led to a decline in the construction of churches and the closure of about 250 churches annually because of declining numbers of worshippers.

The issue of transforming churches into mosques has been a sensitive one between the Orient and the West for more than 1,000 years. Some may think that, as the European citizen’s attachment to his Christian faith has declined, the time has become ripe for Muslims to expand. However, historical conflicts between Islam and Christianity have long been linked to issues of dignity and victory.

Amrou Farouk, an expert on political Islam groups, said the issue of transforming the identity of one building from one religion to another has been complex for hundreds of years and continues to cast a shadow.

“Christians still keep the memory of the church of the Byzantine Empire in Turkey, Hagia Sophia, that the Muslims had transformed into a mosque, alive even after nearly 200 years and Muslims continue to dream about resuscitating their mosques in Granada, Cordoba, Malaga and Seville, all of which were transformed into churches,” said Farouk.

Farouk said that turning churches into mosques is a foolish act, even if the law permits it and it is approved by residents because that behaviour reflects a lack of maturity on the part of the Muslim community. “It is a card that will be used at one point in time against Europe’s Muslims,” said Farouk.

It is not possible to separate between the isolation of the Muslim communities in European societies and the growing anti-Muslim hatred that is strongly supported by the extreme right that is inching closer to power in many European countries.

Some Muslims deliberately or unwittingly contribute to the propagation of right-wing ideas through reckless behaviour that paves the way for a wider spread of Islamophobia.

The decisions and actions of some members of the Muslim communities in the West reflect the ironically common ground between radical Islamist groups and the far right in Europe. They are sides of the same coin, pushing each other towards more radicalism in the service of certain ideological and intellectual goals that further fracture the European society.




Muslim Men Face Pressure to Ignore Their Mental Health Problems in Britain

Jun 16, 2019

It’s National Men’s Health Week and men’s health – physical and mental – is in a state of crisis in Britain. Male obesity levels are rising, prostate cancer incidences are rising and so are eating disorders like anorexia which, until recently, were very uncommon. With suicide being the leading cause of death of young men under 35, the mental health trends are perhaps the most alarming. Globally, depression has overtaken back pain as the number one cause of disability, as the illness has surged amongst men of all backgrounds.

But my years on the frontline of the NHS during emergencies like Grenfell, as well as volunteering with refugees and internally displaced people in Calais, Lesvos and Iraq have opened my eyes as to how mental illness affects Muslim men, like myself, in slightly different ways.

It’s the culture, you see. We’ve inherited sometimes noble, often harmful ideals of traditional masculinity, of the importance of stoicism, of being seen as the unbreakable, impenetrable provider without weakness.

Other downright dangerous traditional views also persist. Blame is often placed on the person who is depressed, and their faith questioned as if it is an issue of belief. Mental illness is often seen as a weakness.

Often, community members believe that because depression isn’t visible, it is simply not real. In fact it speaks volumes that the word “depression” doesn’t even exist in many of the South Asian languages most widely spoken by British Muslims. The closest equivalent phrase means “long-term psychotic type condition”.

Men of all backgrounds are on average one third less likely to seek medical help than women – BAME men even more so. Me and my healthcare colleagues are looking at a ticking time bomb. So many of these men are in denial about their health issues, and only seek help when it is nearly too late.

I recently had a Muslim man who came to see me in my GP practice every few weeks without any obvious reason. We discussed everyday life in London, the cricket World Cup and how to make a proper cup of tea. Anything but actual medical issues.

Something didn’t feel right. And as I tell I tell the juniors I train now – if it doesn’t feel right then it’s probably not. Trust your GP spidey-senses.

Once the penny had dropped, things became clearer for both me and Mr Khan: fifteen minutes later, he left my clinic room with a diagnosis of depression, a plan in place and a follow up appointment to review him in a few weeks’ time.

We got to Mr Khan in time. But many are not so lucky. Lots slip through the net – our over-stretched National Health Service simply doesn’t have the resources to help them as quickly and effectively as we would like.

So why am I writing this? As a GP, a health campaigner and a long-term advocate of preventative medicine, now is the time to speak up. To Muslim communities and community leaders, it is time that we addressed the issues that exist head on, to address taboos and to support the congregation with their health needs.

Moreover, there should be culturally competent mental health provision, that caters to BAME experiences. These services should provide holistic health and wellbeing support from the community, for the community.

And finally for all of those men, ethnic minority or not, who are suffering from depression or other forms of physical or mental health problems, I wish to remind you that you haven’t done anything wrong; that God is not angry with you, and that you don’t need to suffer in silence.

Now is the time to share any concerns you have about your health with your local GP or healthcare team – it is never too late to seek medical attention.




Trump: London needs a new mayor, Khan is a disaster

16 June 2019

US President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack Saturday on London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling for him to be replaced as soon as possible.

“LONDON needs a new mayor ASAP. Khan is a disaster - will only get worse!” Trump said on Twitter, days after labeling the mayor a “stone cold loser.”

Trump attached his latest comment to a retweet about crime in London – where three men were killed in the span of 24 hours – from right-wing columnist Katie Hopkins, who has been widely accused of Islamophobia and in 2015 called migrants “cockroaches.”

The president’s plane had not even touched down in London early this month for the start of a state visit when he tweeted his “loser” comment. Khan had criticized the red carpet treatment being given Trump for the visit.

Trump said the mayor should “focus on crime in London, not me.” He also made a comment about Khan’s height.

Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor, had led opposition to Trump’s visit, writing a newspaper article in which he compared the US leader to European dictators from the 1930s and 1940s.

At that time, the mayor’s spokesman called Trump’s tweets “childish” and “beneath the president of the United States.”

On a trip to London in July last year, Trump accused Khan of doing “a very bad job on terrorism,” linking immigration to a deadly wave of crime in London.

The feud began when Khan, the son of a bus driver who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960s, criticized Trump’s travel ban on people from certain Muslim countries.




US sanctions on Turkey may open Pandora's box at NATO


Washington’s strong reaction against Turkey over its decision to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defence system may reinforce disputes within the NATO alliance, according to an analyst.

The tensions between Turkey and the U.S. will result in greater Turkish military cooperation with Russia, said Karol Wasilewski, Turkey analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM).

It will also result in more U.S. limitations on military cooperation with Turkey, Wasilewski said.

His comments come at a time when tensions between the two countries may rise further as the delivery date approaches for the Russian S-400 system, which is scheduled for next month.

"A stronger U.S. reaction may also reinforce disputes within the alliance, given the expected opposition of some countries," he said, citing Germany as an example.

It is said that possible U.S. sanctions against Turkey may spur tensions within the alliance due to the large trade volume Turkey has with another NATO member, Germany.

Wasilewski also underlined that the decision to acquire the Russian system is part of Turkey’s desire to achieve "strategic autonomy".

"By 2053, Turkey wants its arms industry to be self-sufficient, which has forced the country to systematically reduce its dependence on Western suppliers, currently dominant in arms transactions, and acquire new technologies," he said.

Wasilewski said one of the crucial aspects that facilitated Turkey’s S-400 transaction was Russia's willingness to include technology transfer, in contrast to Western allies' proposals, which failed to meet Turkey’s military demands.

What happened?

In December 2017, Turkey agreed to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system after its initiatives in 2013 to purchase U.S.-made Patriot missiles fell on deaf ears.

During the height of the expanding Syrian civil war which threatened Turkey's southern borders, Washington was aware of Turkey's need for an air defense system yet proposed an exorbitant price for its Patriots.

In an interview this April with Defense & Aerospace Report, Stephen Flanagan, a senior political scientist at policy think tank the RAND Corporation, said the U.S. had "concerns" about Turkey at the time.

In 2013, the U.S. assumed that Turkey would be unable to secure its defense needs through other vendors, Russia in particular, since the two countries were at odds with each other over the Syrian war until 2016.

Turkey later shopped for European alternatives, especially Italian. But in 2017, when Russia offered its state-of-the art S-400s at a reasonable price and with a fair contract, the Turkish government signed the deal.

Since then, although Turkish officials have repeatedly stressed their commitment to NATO’s mission and said Turkey is not choosing Russia over NATO, Washington has pursued a policy of issuing threats.

That policy reached a new low last week, when the U.S. State Department gave Turkey a July 31 deadline to suspend the S-400 deal or face consequences.

Rebuffing the deadline, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the S-400 issue is a "done deal" and "backtracking is out of the question," while Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “no one can force Turkey to choose between NATO and Russia".

Turkey's contributions to F-35 project

The U.S. threat to cut Turkey out of the F-35 project ignores not only its settled contract to buy the jets but also its long and integral role in producing technology for the advanced planes.

Spearheaded by defense giant Lockheed Martin, Turkey joined the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program in 2002 along with the U.K., Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Canada, and to date has invested more than $1.25 billion.

Turkey has partnered with Lockheed Martin for more than 25 years, primarily on the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

It also manufactures more than 900 aircraft parts for all F-35 variants and customers.

Industries of participating countries have been contributing to the program.

One of the most complex structural sections of the aircraft, the F-35A Center Fuselage, is produced by Turkish Aerospace Industries as a second source.

Top Turkish defense firms Aselsan, Havelsan, Kale Aero, Kale Pratt & Whitney, Ayesas and Alp Aviation also manufacture essential components of the F-35 and provide cutting-edge engineering services.

Under the U.S. system, as a Level 1 country, Britain has the most privileges, followed by Italy and the Netherlands at Level 2 and five other countries, including Turkey, at Level 3.

Israel, Japan and Singapore have participated in the project as export customers.

Turkish industry’s participation contributes significantly to the program’s cost effectiveness, which is one of the most major concerns for the project’s future.

Turkey plans to purchase 100 of the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant.

According to official statements, the development phase will be completed by 2020 and full-scale production will start.




Muslim Students Bag 80 Percent Of Government Scholarships Offered Under 20 Central Government Schemes In 2018-19

Jun 15, 2019

New Delhi: Students from the Muslim community received about 80 percent of total scholarships offered under 20 Central government schemes in 2018-19, official data shows.

Those from the Christian community came in at second place with 7.5 percent share while it was 5 percent for Sikhs and 4.7 percent for Hindus, according to the National Scholarship Portal managed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

More than 1.4 Crore applications were received in 2018-19, of which 1.08 Crore were verified.

Among the students who received scholarships, 88 Lakh were Muslims, 8.26 lakh Christians, 5.45 lakh Sikhs and 5.2 lakh Hindus.

There were 1.94 lakh (1.8 percent) Buddhists and 1.07 lakh (1 percent) Jains in the list of beneficiaries.

The total amount disbursed under these scholarship programs sponsored by 14 Union Ministries was Rs 2,157 Crore in 2018-19.

Of the total amount, Rs 1,032 Crore was spent on scholarships for Muslims students while Rs 183 crore was spent on Sikhs and Rs 128 Crore for Hindus.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs topped the list of allotments with 77 percent scholarships of the total offered.

Ministry Of Labour and Employment, Department of Higher Education, Department of School Education and Literacy, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities also featured among the top five.

West Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Kerala were the top five states to receive scholarships.

In terms of the amount received under these scholarships, Uttar Pradesh came first with Rs 356 Crore, followed by West Bengal at Rs 281 crore.




Sri Lanka To Set Up Religious Reconciliation Council To Dispel The Suspicions And Misconceptions Among Religions

June 13, 2019

Colombo, June 13, 2019: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says he accepts the recent announcement of Buddhist prelates and will take steps to set up a council to dispel the suspicions and misconceptions among religions and build religious reconciliation.

The premier told a function in Baddegama June 08 that a religious reconciliation council will be established under the leadership of all religious leaders.

The main objective of this program is to reconcile religions and communities, he added.

Buddhist prelates have pointed out that there will be no solution by removing Muslims and Tamils from the mainstream.

Wickremesinghe noted that whatever religious views they hold, everyone should have the right to practice their religion freely.

Stressing that the constitution has established that priority should be given to Buddhism, and all other religions have also accepted that, he said that on that basis the religious reconciliation council can resolve issues between the religions.

Arrangements will be made to promptly formulate the laws and regulations necessary to set up the council, he added.




‘Maldives Should Not Try Balancing Ties with India and China’: Nasheed Former President

JUNE 15, 2019

Nasheed says Male cannot afford to have defence ties with Beijing; terms Modi’s recent visit ‘positive’

The Maldives should not try to balance relations with India and China, according to Mohamed Nasheed, Speaker and former President. “In my personal view, the Maldives shouldn’t even try to do that. Those who think it is possible to balance ties with these two powers are being naïve,” he told The Hindu, on the sidelines of a press conference in Colombo.

“This is not to say we should be hostile with China,” Mr. Nasheed said. “We will be happy to maintain cultural ties with China. But we can’t afford to have defence cooperation. Development or economic partnership too will be hard if China doesn’t change its modus operandi.” A vocal critic of China-backed development initiatives during the previous Yameen administration, Mr. Nasheed has in the past sought an audit of the ongoing projects in the Maldives.

His comments come a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the island nation, on his first visit abroad after being re-elected to office. It was also his first bilateral state visit to the country — he attended President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s swearing-in ceremony last year — signalling a dramatic reset in New Delhi-Male ties. Relations had soured in the past few years, with New Delhi’s growing apprehension over former President Abdulla Yameen’s “China-tilt”. Describing Mr. Modi’s recent visit “very productive and positive”, Mr. Nasheed said it showed “that India really values the relationship”.

‘Solidarity visit’

Maldivian Vice-President Faisal Naseem, Mr. Nasheed, some Ministers and about 65 parliamentarians are on a “solidarity visit” to Sri Lanka, nearly two months after the Easter terror attacks. The leaders called on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya among others.

“Sri Lanka and the Maldives have an age-old bond. So many Maldivians were born in Sri Lanka, they live in Sri Lanka. We stand by Sri Lanka,” Mr. Naseem earlier said, addressing a press conference along with Mr. Nasheed. “We have come here to express our support and solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka, and call on the world to come visit Sri Lanka. It is safe now,” Mr. Nasheed said.

In a “symbolic gesture”, the contingent flew Sri Lankan airlines, the state carrier, and all members of the visiting team are staying at Hotel Cinnamon Grand, one of the three hotels that were bombed on April 21. Describing terror as the “single biggest issue” facing nation states, Mr. Nasheed sought collective action in the region in combating the threat.

Asked about the government’s initiatives to tackle extremism, amid reports of dozens of Maldivians joining jihadist wars abroad, he said: “We know who they are, and where they are. The government and security forces have a good grip on the situation.” Observing that a few in the Maldives were drawn to a radical version of Islam, he said: “President Solih has been able to engage with religious-minded people on this issue.” There was no popular political support for the “misguided ideology”, he added.

With the Islamic State’s fight in the West Asian world waning, the organisation would want a foothold elsewhere, he remarked, adding: “We are taking all measures to ensure that they don’t get that footing in the Maldives.”




Pak will engage with India on 'basis of equality': Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Jun 15, 2019

BISHKEK: Pakistan will hold talks with India on the "basis of equality" and in a "dignified manner", and it is up to New Delhi whether to engage with Islamabad to resolve all outstanding issues, foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said.

Qureshi, who was in the Kyrgyz capital to attend the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, said this while confirming exchange of plesantaries between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi here on Friday on the sidelines of the multilateral meeting.

"Yes, the meeting did take place, there was a handshake and exchange of pleasantries," Qureshi told Geo News.

He accused the Indian government of being in the "election mindset" to keep their "vote bank intact".

"Pakistan has said what it had to," Qureshi said.

"So India has to make this decision, we are neither in haste, nor troubled. When India prepares itself, it would find us prepared, but we will hold talks on the basis of equality, in a dignified manner.

"Neither we need to run after anyone, nor we need to demonstrate stubbornness. Pakistan's approach is very realistic and well thought-out," Qureshi said when asked to comment on demand by some people that Pakistan should not repeatedly invite India for talks.

He said India had to make a decision whether to hold bilateral talks with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues, and that Pakistan sought the dialogue to be based on equality.

"India has not come out of its election mindset and the extreme position they had taken to influence their constituency and to keep their vote bank intact. It is still confined in that," Qureshi said.

The exchange of pleasantries between Khan and Modi came over two weeks after Khan and Qureshi wrote separate letters to their Indian counterparts, pushing for restarting the bilateral talks.

India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by a Pakistanbased terror group, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Khan had also made a telephone call to Modi on May 26 and expressed his desire to work together for the betterment of people of the two countries.

On his part, Modi said creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering peace and prosperity in the region.

Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir's Pulwama district.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an IAF pilot, who was later handed over to India.




Saudi crown prince warns against 'exploiting' Khashoggi murder

Jun 16, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has warned against "exploiting" the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for political gains, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Turkey.

Turkey's ties with Saudi Arabia have come under strain since the brutal murder last October of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which tarnished the international reputation of the crown prince.

Turkish officials were the first to report the murder and have continued to press Saudi Arabia for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which has yet to be found.

"The death of Jamal Khashoggi is a very painful crime," Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published Sunday.

"Any party exploiting the case politically should stop doing so, and present evidence to the (Saudi) court, which will contribute to achieving justice," he added, without directly naming Turkey.

The prince, however, added that he wants strong relations with "all Islamic countries including Turkey".

The CIA has reportedly said the murder was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler and heir to the Arab world's most powerful throne.

Saudi authorities strongly deny the allegation.

Saudi prosecutors have absolved the prince and said around two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.

Khashoggi, a US resident, had written critically of Prince Mohammed and was killed in what Riyadh described as a rogue operation.

Prince Mohammed said the kingdom was committed to "full justice and accountability" in the case, as he faces international pressure to punish the culprits.




Rouhani: Iran to continue scaling back its nuclear deal commitments

15 June 2019

Iran will continue scaling back its compliance with its nuclear deal commitments in the absence of “positive signals” from other signatories to the pact, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a meeting of Russia, China and other Asia leaders in Tajikistan.

Iran stopped complying in May with some commitments in a 2015 nuclear deal that was agreed with global powers, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and tightened sanctions.

Tehran has said in May that, unless world powers protected its economy from US sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium at higher level.






'Islamophobia cannot solve problems of Europe or Asia'

Sena Güler


Islamophobia offers no solution for the problems of either Europe or Asia, the continents straddled by Turkey, said the Turkish presidential spokesperson on Saturday.

“Islamophobia will solve neither Europe's nor Asia's problems. In the short term, it may serve narrow-minded populist agendas, but it in the long term, it could lead to more victimisation of minorities and ethnic and social upheaval,” Ibrahim Kalin wrote in an op-ed for Al Jazeera English.

He recalled an June trip meeting between Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

In a statement after the meeting, calling migration the “greatest challenges” for both countries, the Hungarian government said: “Both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of coexistence with continuously growing Muslim populations."

In response, Kalin wrote that actually Muslims are not the biggest problem of either country.

He said it is strange for them to express concern over “growing Muslim populations” as neither of them faces such a “problem.”

“But presenting them as a threat is a useful strategy to deflect attention from the real problems of social disintegration, economic stagnation, the rise of populism and far-right movements, the erosion of traditional values, the failure of mainstream politics and a host of other issues that have practically nothing to do with Muslim or other minority groups,” he added.

He noted that the Muslim population in Hungary is just around 5,000 and the government did not allow any refugees moving through the country to stay there.

Kalin also told how Myanmar expelled hundreds of thousands of Muslims from its northern Rakhine state, where it had had a “large Muslim community” for centuries.

“Long lauded as a proponent of human rights and civil liberties, Suu Kyi has stood up in defence of Myanmar's military which has unleashed an unprecedented campaign of persecution against the Muslim-majority Rohingya,” Kalin wrote.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Kalin also said the Muslims who stayed in Myanmar still face the threat of violence and violations of their basic rights, but little has been done to stop the persecution.

Also touching on the civil war in Syria, he added that like the Rohingya issue, the Syrian issue has not been addressed properly.

“In 2015, eager to placate their angry electorates, European leaders pushed for a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into Europe, placing the burden on Turkish shoulders,” he said, noting that Turkey currently hosts 3.5 million Syrians, more than any country in the world.

“Since then, Syrians have continued to be killed at an alarming rate in the conflict, with hundreds of thousands displaced internally, sometimes multiple times, and many still trying to flee to safety and dying in the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea,” Kalin wrote, adding that Europeans failed to put an end to the Syrian war as their primary concern is “Muslim” migration.

"Today there is concerted effort to instrumentalise Muslim communities within old-fashioned identity politics to stoke fear and justify conflict. Islam and Muslims are increasingly treated as the opposite of what both the secular and Judeo-Christian West supposedly stand for; they are the new common 'enemy'. Thus, right-wing, left-wing, liberal, conservative, evangelical and other groups which normally argue over a thousand different issues on a daily basis, readily agree on this perceived Muslim 'threat'," he added.

"Some 150 years ago, Marx rightly said that the promise of freedom, equality and fraternity in Europe was dependent on the inclusion of Jews. Today, in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, it is very much dependent on the acceptance of Muslims as equal human beings and fellow citizens."




UK opposition leader targeted over comments on Iran escalation

Jun 15, 2019

The government and anti-Iran lawmakers in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party have targeted opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for his comments on Iran and the fact that he urged London not to rush to rush to conclusions on the case of explosions affecting two tankers in the Persian Gulf waters.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Saturday called Corbyn "pathetic" for criticizing his department after it blamed Iran for the Thursday explosions, saying that the Labour leader had expressed same remarks defending Russia when London blamed Moscow for an attack on a former double spy in the southern English city of Salisbury last year.

"Pathetic and predictable. From Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?” said Hunt.

The comments came a day after Corbyn posted a tweet saying Britain should not blindly follow the United States in blaming Iran for tanker explosions as it could increase the risk of a major conflict in the Persian Gulf region.

“Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government's rhetoric will only increase the threat of war,” Corbyn had said.

Other senior Tory figures also criticized Corbyn for the comments, claiming his judgments have always served other countries rather than Britain.

“Why is Jeremy Corbyn never on the side of the country he seeks to lead?,” said interior minister Sajid Javid, reminding that Corbyn had expressed same criticism of the government when it blacklisted Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah in February.

Sajid Javid


Why is Jeremy Corbyn never on the side of the country he seeks to lead? Time and time again - be it the provenance of Novichok, or the banning of Hizbollah - he gives the benefit of the doubt to those who threaten our national security https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/1139640621994512385?s=21 …

Jeremy Corbyn


Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.


2:46 PM - Jun 15, 2019

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Dominic Raab, a former minister for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, also accused Corbyn of being anti-American.

“Yet again Jeremy Corbyn allows his anti-American prejudice to skew his moral compass and political judgment. #notfittolead,” Raab wrote in a tweet.

The comments from the three major Conservative politicians come as they are involved in a race to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May. Hunt is second in the race far behind favorite Boris Johnson while Javid and Raab are struggling to survive until a final leadership vote between 150,000 Conservative Party members planned for late July.

However, top Labour official on foreign policy defended Corbyn’s posture on Iran’s case, saying the Tory-led government was recklessly pushing Britain into a big war.

Full report at:




British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

June 16, 2019

TEHRAN: Britain’s ambassador to Iran on Sunday denied he was summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry after London accused Tehran of “almost certainly” being responsible for tanker attacks in the Gulf.

“Interesting. And news to me,” ambassador Rob Macaire said in a tweet a day after the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement that it had summoned the envoy over his government’s accusations.

“I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’. Of course if formally summoned I would always respond, as would all Ambassadors,” Macaire wrote.

Iran’s foreign ministry said the head of its European affairs Mahmoud Barimani met Macaire on Saturday and “strongly protested against the unacceptable and anti-Iranian positions of the British government.”

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London had concluded Iran was “almost certainly” responsible for Thursday’s tanker attacks.

He was echoing remarks by US President Donald Trump who said Thursday’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman had Iran “written all over it.”

Iran has denied any involvement in the twin attacks.

It dismissed Hunt’s accusations as “false” and chided London for its “blind and precipitous alignment” with US views, according to the foreign ministry.

The latest incident comes as ties between Tehran and London have been strained in recent months, namely over the fate of a British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on sedition charges.

London has repeatedly called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their infant daughter to visit her family.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government, has begun a hunger strike in protest at her detention, her husband said on Saturday.

She previously went on hunger strike in January.

Richard Ratcliffe urged the Iranian authorities to immediately release his wife and to allow the British embassy to check on her health, and also asked they grant him a visa to visit her.

Full report at:




Bulgaria: Ottoman-era mosque opens after renovation

Burcu Calik  


Turkish restoration helped an Ottoman-era mosque -- the oldest in the Balkans -- reopen for worshippers on Saturday.

The mosque, built by the Ottomans in 1394 in the southeastern Bulgarian city of Haskoy, was renovated with Turkish help, Ali Erbas, head of the Turkish state Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), told the mosque’s reopening ceremony.

“This distinguished work was taken under protection in light of its history with the renovation work conducted by the Grand Mufti’s Office of Bulgarian Muslims,” he added.

Erbas also thanked the Bulgarian government for its cooperation and said such renovation work also contributes to cooperation between the two countries.

Full report at:




UK: Corbyn says no evidence of Iran role in attacks

Muhammad Mussa



The leader of Britain’s opposition has said there is no “credible evidence” that Iran was responsible for attacks on two oil tankers on Friday, urging the government to refrain from escalating tensions in the region.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said late Friday that the government’s response risked increasing the threat of war with Iran following the foreign office’s conclusion that Iran is almost certainly behind the attacks.

“Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement,” Corbyn said on Twitter, warning that “without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.”

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, criticized Corbyn’s statement on Twitter, calling it “pathetic and predictable” and that “from Salisbury to the Middle East, why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?”

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, said on Saturday that independent evidence should be brought forward that shows who was responsible for the attacks but warned the government from getting dragged into a large-scale war.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today, Thornberry said “these are extremely dangerous developments and we really have to pause and think about where we are going next” and that there are times when the government should not follow the U.S.

“We made a dreadful mistake when it came to Iraq and we must not make the same mistake again,” she said.

On Friday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that a video provided by the U.S. was not sufficient to prove that Iran was behind the tanker attacks.

U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for the attacks, citing a U.S. Central Command video that purports to show a patrol boat with personnel docked near one of the oil tankers.

Full report at:




Labour's Corbyn hit by online backlash over criticism of UK stance on Iran

June 15, 2019

The leader of Britain's main opposition party has questioned whether the government had evidence to back up its accusations that Iran was behind attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, and warned against escalating tensions.

Britain on Friday joined the United States in blaming Tehran for the attacks, raising fears of a broader military confrontation in a vital passageway for the world's oil industry.

The US military had released video footage they say shows Iranian special forces removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers.

Iran has denied any involvement.

"Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government's rhetoric will only increase the threat of war," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote on Twitter late on Friday.

"Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement," he said, referring to Washington's withdrawal from a 2015 pact to curb Tehran's nuclear plans.

Some replies were supportive of Mr Corbyn's tweet but a number were critical, with several highlighting his past paid appearances on an Iranian government TV channel.

Jeremy Corbyn


Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.


2:37 AM - Jun 15, 2019

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British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, who is one of the leading candidates to succeed British Prime Minister Theresa May after she announced she would step down, described Mr Corbyn's comments as "pathetic and predictable".

"Why can he never bring himself to back British allies, British intelligence or British interests?," Mr Hunt said, according to Reuters.

Dominic Raab, another candidate to be the next Conservative leader, said Mr Corbyn's comments show he is unfit to lead Britain.

"Corbyn allows his anti-American prejudice to skew his moral compass and political judgment," he said.

Dominic Raab


Yet again Jeremy Corbyn allows his anti-American prejudice to skew his moral compass and political judgment. #notfittolead

Jeremy Corbyn


Britain should act to ease tensions in the Gulf, not fuel a military escalation that began with US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. Without credible evidence about the tanker attacks, the government’s rhetoric will only increase the threat of war.


1:23 PM - Jun 15, 2019

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Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had described the timing of the attacks as "suspicious".

Mr Corbyn has in the past - between 2009 and 2012 - been paid for appearances on the country’s state TV channel, Press TV.

Press TV had its licence revoked by media regulator Ofcom in 2012, citing a breach of broadcasting licence rules over editorial control of the channel and failure to pay a £100,000 fine (Dh474,560). The media regulator also concluded that the editorial decisions on the channel were being controlled by the offices in Tehran, instead of the UK.

Rory Stewart, the dark horse contender to be the new UK prime minister, said on Twitter: "Jeremy Corbyn is wrong. The tanker attacks are almost certainly the work of the IRGC Quds Force linked to attacks in Yemen and Syria. No one should minimise the threat to stability in the region and beyond."

Full report at:




North America


Trump administration is itching for a fight with Iran: Political analyst

Jun 16, 2019

The administration of US President Donald Trump is spoiling “for a fight with Iran” and this is why it is making different accusations against the Islamic Republic, says Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center.

“This administration is itching for a fight with Iran,” The Washington Post on Saturday quoted Kugelman as saying. “Unfortunately, that sometimes entails making some accusations against Iran that are somewhat questionable.”

This comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly blamed Iran for a bombing attack on US forces on May 31st in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul that had already been claimed by the Taliban militant group.

Two weeks after the attack and amid Washington’s growing enmity against Tehran, Pompeo referred to the Kabul bombing as an example of one “in a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American and allied interests,” The Post reported.

“If there was clearly a belief that Iran had hit troops in Afghanistan, it would have been huge news right away,” said Kugelman pictured below.

In the incident that took place in eastern Kabul, a bomber detonated his explosives near a US convoy, killing four Afghan passersby and slightly wounding four American servicemen and at least three civilians.

At the time, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claiming in a phone interview that 10 US troops were killed.

The State Department has declined to comment when it was asked to clarify the allegation Pompeo made while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington escalated this week after the US had accused Iran of being responsible for the recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman.

The attacks on the Marshal Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous sent shock waves through the world which was awaiting the news of a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in Tehran.

Pompeo said immediately, “It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today.”

Russia and China, however, warned against reaching hasty conclusions, arguing that a thorough investigation should be carried out into the incident.




Bernie Sanders warns against Trump's 'pretext for war' with Iran

Jun 16, 2019

US Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has slammed Washington’s attempt to blame Iran for purported attacks on oil tanker vessels in the Sea of Oman, warning that the move is aimed at generating a “pretext for war.”

“The Gulf of Oman incident must not be used as a pretext for war with Iran,” said Sanders on Twitter, insisting that any military action on Iran would not only be illegal, but “an unmitigated disaster for the United States, Iran, the region, and the world.”

The development came as officials from multiple countries, the United Nations as well as one of the owners of the ships struck in the recent incidents have discounted or contradicted Washington’s claim accusing Iran of staging the attacks.

While it remained unclear what exactly happened to the ships, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on Thursday that Iran had carried out the attacks on the two tanker vessels without offering any evidence. US client states in the Persian Gulf as well as the UK also followed suit the next day.

Moreover, the US military further published a blurry video clip on Friday with Pentagon officials claiming that it proves commandos of the Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) had planted explosives on one of the ships. The footage, however, proved not very convincing to authorities of other countries and organizations.

Japanese ship owner contradicts US version of attack

Yutaka Katada, the owner of the Japanese tanker attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, however, offered a different account of the attack on Friday, saying that the Filipino crew of the Kokuka Courageous believed that their vessel had been hit by flying objects rather than a mine.

"The crew are saying it was hit with a flying object. They say something came flying towards them, then there was an explosion, then there was a hole in the vessel," he told reporters. "Then some crew witnessed a second shot."

Further contradicting the US version of events, Katada added: "To put a bomb on the side is not something we are thinking. If it's between an explosion and a penetrating bullet, I have a feeling it is a penetrating bullet. If it was an explosion, there would be damage in different places, but this is just an assumption or a guess."

 “Not enough” to prove Iran's guilt.

On Thursday, company officials said the vessel had first been hit by what appeared to be an artillery shell toward the stern, causing a fire in the engine room that was extinguished.

Three hours later, the ship was again attacked on the same side in the center of the hull, at which point the captain felt it was no longer safe and ordered the crew to take to the life boats, officials said.

"When the shell hit, it was above the water surface by quite a lot," Katada further underlined on Friday. "Because of that there is no doubt that it wasn't a torpedo."

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who recently visited Tehran to meet with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, emphasized that the video was “not enough” to prove Iran's guilt.

Full report at:




Iran should remain firm and resolute against Trump and his henchmen: Scholar

Jun 15, 2019

US President Donald Trump is engaged in a good cop, bad cop charade with Iran and “the only response to Trump and his henchmen is to remain firm and resolute,” says Dennis Etler, an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs.

Hawkish Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday suggested that the United States should take military action against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro so countries opposing the US are intimidated and surrender to Washington's demands.

To handle foreign conflicts “we need points on the board,” Graham said.  He said that the US needs to resolve its issues with other countries using military force.

Trump however said on Thursday that he wants Iran to get back at the table, following attacks on two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman which Washington has blamed on Tehran.

In an interview on Fox News on Friday, Trump blamed Iran for the attack on oil tankers without providing any solid evidence, as did his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a day before.

A day after the incident, Iran warned the US to stop playing a blame game through "suspicious" attacks on oil tankers in the Middle East, describing the American behavior as "worrying".

In an interview with Press TV on Saturday, Etler, a former professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, said, “It says something about the nature of US Imperialism that the President, who said while campaigning for office, ‘I would say I'm the most militaristic person on the stage, but I would also say that I know when to do it,’ is now a voice of moderation within his own administration.”

“Trump for all his rhetoric of wanting to avoid foreign interventions seems to have a penchant for hiring the most virulent war-mongers on the face of the planet to do his bidding,” he stated.

“Take for instance John R. Bolton, National Security Advisor to Trump, he who ordered the deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group and B-52s to the Persian Gulf and told the Pentagon to draw up plans to send 120,000 US troops to the region. Is it any surprise that he is charging Iran with using mines to sabotage four oil tankers outside the Strait of Hormuz? There needs to be some excuse for US war preparations against Iran other than his vague pronouncements condemning its leader’s intents to destabilize the region. Problem solved, create an incident to justify them,” he stated.

War mania grips Trump's henchmen

“Then there is Vice President Mike Pence. To quote from his recent bombastic Sturm and Drang (storm and drive) commencement address given to the graduating class at West Point, ‘It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen,’ …  ‘and when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less,’” the analyst noted.

“Last but not least is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently said that the US was founded on the principle that ‘peace wasn’t the norm’ and ‘conflict is the normative experience for nations.’ The time is now, according to Pompeo, to ‘confront regimes squarely opposed to our interests and our values.’ Like his predecessors in the past administrations Pompeo reiterated that Trump, ‘believes America is exceptional — a place and history apart from normal human experience,’ and ‘American exceptionalism ... will remain alive and well in the 21st century. What’s good for the United States is good for the world,’” he noted.

“It is little wonder then that ardent Trump supporter and erstwhile friend of the late Senator John McCain, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, is also on the warpath, stating that, ‘We need points on the board. Start with your own backyard… Fix Venezuela and everybody else will know you’re serious,’ an obvious reference to North Korea and Iran. And how to do that? According to Graham, ‘When Cuba got involved in Grenada, what did Ronald Reagan do? He kicked them out. That is what I'd do with Venezuela,’” he noted.

“Well, Venezuela is no Grenada, and the sheer idiocy of comparing the two stretches the bounds of credulity and has the sound of a hyena howling at the moon,” he stated.

Full report at:




US looking into university funding from Qatar and other outside sources

June 15, 2019

The US Education Department has opened investigations into foreign funding received by Georgetown University and Texas A&M University, including from Qatar, as part of a broader push to monitor international money flowing to American colleges.

Both universities are being ordered to disclose years of financial records amid concerns they have not fully reported their foreign gifts and contracts to the federal government, according to letters sent to the schools on Thursday.

Federal law requires US colleges to report contracts and donations from foreign sources totaling $250,000 (Dh918,000) or more, but past filings from Georgetown and Texas A&M “may not fully capture” that information, according to the letters.

As an example, department officials wrote, both schools should have reported funding related to branch campuses they operate in Qatar, which hosts the outposts of several US colleges.

According to data submitted by Georgetown, the school has received more than $415 million from abroad since 2012, including $36 million last year.

Nearly all of Georgetown’s foreign money reported for 2018 came from sources in Qatar, including $33 million from the Qatar Foundation, a nonprofit that has a partnership with Georgetown to support the school’s campus near Doha.

Data filed by Texas A&M show that the school has received $285 million from foreign sources since 2014, including $6.1 million last year. All of Texas A&M’s reported funding from last year also came through a partnership with the Qatar Foundation.

The records being sought by investigators go beyond Qatar, though, and include dealings with China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, and specific companies in those nations.

Investigators ordered both schools to disclose funding from Huawei or ZTE, the Chinese tech giants that some US officials call a threat to national security. Georgetown is being asked to detail money it received from any sources in Saudi Arabia or Russia, including Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity company.

Foreign funding information that schools submit to the Education Department often provides little detail about where the money comes from and none about how it is used. Typically schools report only the amount of money, the date of the agreement, the country it came from and, sometimes, a specific source within that country.

The letters to Georgetown and Texas A&M warn that they could face legal action and financial penalties if they are found to have broken the rules.

If investigators find a violation, it can be referred to the US attorney general’s office for action “to compel compliance and to recover the full costs’” of the investigation and enforcement, according to the letters.

Georgetown officials said the school is reviewing the letter and will co-operate with the inquiry. The university said in a statement that it “takes seriously its reporting obligations and provides all information as required by the Department of Education every six months”.

Texas A&M issued a statement saying it takes compliance and security seriously. “We just received the document today from the US Department of Education and are reviewing it. We are fully co-operating with the inquiry.”

The crackdown follows complaints from some legislators that the Education Department has not done enough to review foreign funding to colleges. The issue has gained attention amid heightened tensions with China and some other nations.

In February, a bipartisan panel in Congress urged US colleges to cut ties with the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language programme funded by a branch of the Chinese government. Some critics say it is a threat to US national security and academic freedom.

The same panel found that 70 per cent of US schools receiving $250,000 or more from China to operate Confucius Institutes failed to report the funding, and that the Education Department failed to provide adequate oversight.

Senator Rob Portman, chairman of the panel, told the department in January to issue updated guidance and improve its oversight practices. On Thursday, he applauded the agency for taking action.

“When US schools take money from foreign governments, the American people deserve to know about it,” he said.

Colleges have complained that the rules are unclear. In January, the American Council on Education, which represents dozens of college chiefs, asked for clarity on several aspects of the law and noted that the last guidance on the topic was issued in 2004.

Full report at:






J&K terror funding case: NIA nails top separatist leaders

June 15, 2019

With top separatists in the net in Jammu and Kashmir terror funding case of 2017, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claims to have clinching proof against four of the big leaders.

This is after the anti terror probe agency arrested Yasin Malik, leader of JKLF, Asiya Andrabi, Duktaran-e-Milat, Separatist leader Shabir Shah of JKDFP and Masrat Alam of Muslim League. All the four accused were taken into police custody for custodial interrogation few weeks ago.

The matter pertains to 2017 where a case was filed against terrorists belonging to Jammat ud Dawah, Duktaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other separatist leaders in the State of J&K for raising, receiving and collecting funds for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir and entering into a larger conspiracy for causing disruption in Kashmir valley and for waging war against India.

But it is only two years after the FIR, the crackdown against separatists happened in what is being seen as a "hard approach" of Modi government.

As per NIA sources, Yasin Malik admitted that he was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of Hurriyat conference and formed the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), which spear headed the violent agitations in 2016 in Kashmir Valley, by issuing "Protest Calendars" leading to economic shut down for over four months.

It also caused death and injuries to civilians and security forces during the violent protests.

Yasin Malik admitted that the JRL and Hurriyat Conference Gilani Group collected funds from business community as well as certain other sources and ensured that economic shut down and violent protests continue to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the valley.

Meanwhile, female separartist leader Asiya Andrabi revealed to NIA that she had been collecting funds and donations from foreign sources and Duktaran-e-Milat had been organising protests by muslim women in the valley.

Asiya Andrabi was confronted with evidence regarding funding of educational expenses of her son in Malaysia from 2011 onwards through foreign remittances made by Zahoor Watali.

Zahoor is one of the main accused in terror funding case and an influential businessman of the valley.

India today has learnt that NIA has already approached the concerned authorities for providing evidence relating to certain bank accounts used by Mohammad bin Qasim (son of Asiya Andrabi) while he was studying in the university.

During the custodial interrogation, Shabir Shah was confronted with evidence relating to transfer of money by Pakistan based agents and representatives of APHC factions to parties affiliated to Hurriyat in J & K.

He was also confronted about his investments in various hotels and businesses in Pehalgam, properties in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag. Evidence regarding many of his benami properties is being collected.

He was confronted with some of his personal staff and associates who have provided vital information regarding the sources fund raising and investment details. Investigation into these aspects is underway.

But the latest arrest of Masarat Alam is being termed as big as NIA investigators believe that he is the so called poster boy of stone pelters and violent agitations in Kashmir valley.

He has revealed that Pakistan based agents route the funds through hawala operators which were transferred to the separatist leaders including Syed Shah Gilani Chairman APHC (G).

Masarat Alam also revealed that there are rifts in the Hurriyat conference regarding collection and use of funds.

Investigation revealed that Zahoor Ahamad Shah Watali is one of the main hawala conduit, who used to generate and receive funds from Pakistan, ISI, UAE, and had floated various shell companies to disguise foreign remittances for further transfer to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the valley.

These funds were used to fuel unrest in the Kashmir valley and organise violent agitations and anti-India activities, which resulted in large scale violence, leading to numerous injuries and deaths of civilians and security forces.

NIA for its investigation carried out nationwide searches at various locations across the States of J&K, Delhi and Haryana.

Crucial electronic and documentary evidences were recovered which point towards the pattern of raising, collection, transfer and use of funds for terrorist and separatist activities.

Significant evidence relating to funding of these separatist elements through Pakistan and UAE based businessman, ISI, High Commission of Pakistan in Delhi has been collected and presented to the NIA Special Court in the chargesheets.

NIA concluded that mastermind and kingpin of the crime Zahoor Watali had approached the trial court for grant of bail which was rejected by the NIA Special Court.

He approached the Delhi High Court, challenging the order and High Court granted him bail on September 13, 2018.

NIA filed an SLP in the Hon'ble Supreme Court challenging his bail order and the Division bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court cancelled the bail of Zahoor Watali.

Accepting the plea of NIA, Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that the High Court has not appreciated the material which found favour with the designated court to record its opinion that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accusations are prima facie true.

It also noticed that the High court ought to have taken into account the totality of the materials/ evidences which depicted the involvement of the respondent in the commission of the stated offences, besides the offence under section 17 for raising funds for terrorist activities.

NIA has charge sheeted 13 accused including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed (leader of Jammat ud Dawah), Syed Salahuddin (head of proscribed organisation Hizb-ul-Mujahideen),7 separatist leaders, 2 hawala conduits and some stone pelters.

In what is being seen as a continued policy of zero tolerance to terror, the Modi 2.0 government will come down hard on anti India activity.




3 more held in Tamil Nadu ISIS module bust

Jun 16, 2019

Police on Saturday arrested three more youths from Coimbatore in connection with the recently-busted IS module in the city.

Earlier this week, NIA had arrested two youths who were found to be part of a Kerala-Tamil Nadu ISIS module with links to Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the April 21 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.

Full report at:




2 ISIS men nabbed in 2018 were in touch with Pakistani recruiter

Jun 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: At least two Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir (ISJK) terrorists arrested from Srinagar in November 2018 for an attempted strike on am police party, were in online contact with a Pakistani and active Islamic State cadre based in Afghanistan, Huzaifa, who instigated and motivated them to work for Islamic State in J&K.

NIA chargesheet in the case filed on May 22 names four accused — the motorcycle-borne attackers Tariq Ahmed Khan, Haris Mushtaq Khan and Asif Suhail Nadaf who jumped the police naka and attempted to lob a grenade — and Asif Majeed, who allegedly provided food and shelter to the co-accused and collected weapons at the instance of Haris.

As per the chargesheet accessed by TOI, the presence and influence of ISJK has been manifesting since 2014 when IS flags were first waved in Kashmir, followed by killing of IS-inspired Mugees Ahmed Mir in November 2017 whose body was wrapped in IS flag, declaration of Kashmir-based IS wing Al-Hind in 2016, killing of ISJK head Dawood and three others in Srigufwara in June 2018 and more recently, announcement by IS-linked Amaq News Agency in May of ‘Wilayah of Hind’ after the killing of ISJK terrorist Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi.

“Kashmir offers a fertile ground as it has a long history of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism against the state, gingered with local demand for azaadi,” the chargesheet said adding that social media expansion has only raised the opportunity to reach potential aspirants.

Tahir Ahmed Khan had come in contact with Asif Nazar Dar, a self-styled commander of ISJK now killed, in 2018. They shared jihadi material, IS-related content, voice and text messages. Tahir also came in online contact with Huzaifa, a Pakistani IS cadre based in Afghanistan. Nazir convinced Tahir to join ISJK in September 2018 at his house in Srinagar, where Ishfaq Sofi was present. Nazar directed Tahir to operate in Valley and put him under ISJK terrorist Adil Wani. Tahir came in contact with Pervez Ahmad, an ISJK terrorist now killed, who arranged his meeting with Haris, the second accused.

Tahir’s chats showed he was in touch with militants of Dalut-e-Islamia or IS. He mentioned support to Ansar Ghazwat ul-Hind chief Zakir Musa and his contact asked him to motivate AGuH militants to join Dalut-e-Islamia.

Haris too was active on social media and came in contact with Huzaifa, who proposed that he work for ISJK in Kashmir. Haris came in contact with Asif Nazar and Adil Wani in 2018. Asif radicalised him to join ISJK. Haris, who was trained by Ishfaq Sofi, Pervez and Adil Wani provided Asif Majeed, fourth accused, a bag of weapons. Haris came in contact with Tahir through Asif Nazar.

Full report at:




Revealed: Pakistan's Jammu & Kashmir terror fund trail

Jun 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: The custodial interrogation of JKLF chairman Yasin Malik by NIA in April and that of JKDFP chief Shabir Shah, prime organiser of stone-pelting protests of 2016 Masarat Alam and Dukhtaran-e-Milat chief Asiya Andrabi earlier this month has allegedly corroborated how terror funds were routed by Pakistan-based sources via hawala route to Kashmiri separatists, who then used them to fuel unrest and organise violent agitations in the Valley.

NIA sources told TOI that Malik, interrogated by NIA sleuths here in April, revealed that he was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of Hurriyat Conference to form the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) that spearheaded the violent agitations of 2016 in Kashmir Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. JRL had then issued ‘protest calendars’ leading to economic shutdown for over four months. Many civilians and security forces were killed or injured in these protests.

Malik has purportedly admitted that JRL and Hurriyat faction headed by Syed Ali Shah Geelani had collected funds from the business community and certain other sources and ensured that the economic shutdown and violent protests continued to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the Valley.

During interrogation earlier this month, Asiya Andrabi is said to have admitted to collecting funds and donations from foreign sources for Dukhtaran-e-Milat, which organised protests by Muslim women in the Valley. Andrabi was confronted with evidence regarding funding of educational expenses of her son in Malaysia from 2011 onwards, allegedly through foreign remittances made by Kashmiri businessman and arrested accused in the case Zahoor Watali.

NIA has already approached the concerned authorities for providing evidence relating to certain bank accounts used by Andrabi’s son Mohammad bin Qasim while he was studying at the University in Malaysia.

Shabir Shah, during his interrogation over the past few days, was confronted with evidence relating to transfer of money by Pakistan-based agents and representatives of APHC factions to parties affiliated to Hurriyat in J&K. He was also confronted about his investments in various hotels and businesses in Pahalgam, besides properties in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag. He was confronted with some of his personal staff and associates who have provided vital information regarding his fund-raising and investment details.

Masarat Alam has meanwhile told NIA investigators how Pakistan-based agents had routed funds through hawala operators, which were transferred to separatist leaders in Kashmir including Geelani. Alam allegedly pointed to rifts in the Hurriyat conference regarding collection and use of funds.

NIA has so far chargesheeted 13 accused in the J&K terror funding case including Jamaat ud Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Hizbul Mujahideen head Syed Salahuddin, seven separatist leaders, two hawala conduits and some stone pelters.

Investigation revealed that Watali is one of the main hawala conduit who used to generate and receive funds from Pakistan, ISI, UAE and had floated various shell companies to disguise foreign remittances for further transfer to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the Valley.

Full report at:




Terror 'gravest threat' in Asia, says S Jaishankar

Jun 16, 2019

NEW DELHI: Describing terrorism as the "gravest threat" in Asia, foreign minister S Jaishankar, in his maiden address at the CICA summit, said "terrorists and their victims must never be equated."

Addressing the summit in Dushanbe, Jaishankar said, "CICA has always shown a strong commitment to combat terrorism and extremism and adopt a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism. Early finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, proposed by India, is today even more essential and we seek your support in this regard." His statement came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the SCO Summit in Bishkek, asked that countries "sponsoring, aiding and funding" terrorism must be held accountable.

Amplifying changing world dynamics both in the strategic and the economic contexts, Jaishankar said, "India supports a rulebased order in Asia, as in the rest of the world. But we confront unavoidable challenges such as terrorism, conflicts, transnational crimes and maritime threats. There are also issues of sustainable development including the lack of energy security, low intra-regional trade and deficit of connectivity. These must be urgently remedied for our common good."

Jaishankar added India supports a peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. "All initiatives and processes must include all sections of Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government," he said.

Full report at:




Muslims fear displacement from Jama Masjid area as Agra Metro project moves forward

June 15, 2019

The Ministry of Railways, UP government and the local administration of Agra are actively involved in the planning for Agra Metro Rail project.

As per an estimate, at least 10,000 houses and commercial establishments will come in the demolition zone when the Metro will be constructed through the densely populated city which has already triggered voices against the project in Agra.

These voices are getting louder as the project advances as was seen when the Metro project team reached the Jama Masjid area of the old city for a survey.

A large group of local residents surrounded the team and demanded that the Metro project be scrapped altogether or at least kept away from their area as the city does not need a Metro.

Talking to IndiaToday,in, Sami Aghai, Chairman of Bhartiya Muslim Vikas Parishad (BMVP) said that there is no need for a Metro train in a small city like Agra. If the entire project is not scrapped, then at least the Jama Masjid route should be removed from the detailed project report (DPR) of Agra Metro as the streets here are very narrow and construction of the Metro will cause massive displacement of the local population.

Sami Aghai said, "These streets are used for prayers on Friday when thousands of Muslims come to Jama Masjid for weekly prayers. The festival of Eid is celebrated in this area around the mosque and at that time, the roads get jam-packed with Muslims and if the roads are taken away by the Metro project, there will hardly be any space around the mosque left to handle such huge crowds."

Social activist Vijay Upadhyay said that instead of the Metro project, the local administration and state government should think about improving the state of roads in the city and regulate the traffic on these roads.

"The entire city was suffering from drainage problems and instead of investing in improving the existing infrastructure of the city, a huge financial burden of the Metro project was being laid on the city's back which will only harm its economy," Vijay Upadhyay said.

Hindustani Biradari Vice-Chairman Vishal Sharma said that Agra is a tourist city and the first priority for the administration should be to improve the city's facilities so that the tourists do not get stuck in traffic jams.

"These jams tarnish the image of the city and the need of the hour is to ensure that the traffic moves smoothly. There was no need of a Metro in the city as the city wasn't that big to necessitate a Metro train. The Metro is being unnecessarily used as a status symbol," Vishal Sharma.

Talking to IndiaToday.in, Agra Vyapar Mandal President TN Agarwal said that the Jama Masjid area is the bulk market for garments and fabrics and every day, transactions worth crores take place here.

Full report at:




Ayodhya panel meets AIMPLB delegation

Jun 15, 2019

The Supreme Court-appointed Ayodhya mediation panel on Saturday held three-hour-long discussions with an All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) delegation.

“We were invited by the panel for talks. We communicated to them the AIMPLB stand on the Ayodhya land dispute,” said a member of the delegation led by AIMPLB general secretary Maulana Wali Rahmani.

“We did not give any written submission to the panel but simply conveyed our views, which were finalised in a meeting of the AIMPLB at Nadwa College in April,” said the member, adding the board was in favour of an amicable and peaceful settlement at the earliest.

Meanwhile, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya reiterated that, if required, a law would be enacted for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Maurya was in Ayodhya to attend the closing ceremony of the nine-day birthday celebrations of Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

Maurya said: “There are two ways to resolve the Ram Mandir issue. One is through the courts and another is through dialogue between the parties (Hindu and Muslim litigants).”

Both the processes are underway, he said. “If required, a law will be enacted for construction of Ram temple,” he said.

Full report at:




Multi-agency body to track all terrorism cases in Jammu and Kashmir

Jun 16, 2019

A multi-disciplinary terror monitoring group, which is led by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and includes representatives from the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency and the income tax department, will now expand its ambit to monitor the progress of all terror-related cases in the Valley, officials aware of the developments said on Saturday.

The group was initially set up to evaluate evidence when the Centre had decided to declare Jammat-e-Islami (Jammu and Kashmir) and the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) as banned organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“The group will continue to monitor major terror-related cases. The primary motive is to ensure that terror-related cases, especially those before the courts, do not fall between two stools for lack of evidence. That is why the J&K Police has been made the fulcrum,” a senior official of the ministry of home affairs said on condition of anonymity.

In the first six months of this year, security forces have killed 111 militants, including some top commanders of terror outfits in different parts of Kashmir. In the deadliest terror attack in the Valley, 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama in February. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.

Investigative agencies are also looking into cases of terror funding, with Kashmiri separatist leaders such as Shabir Shah, Asiya Andrabi and Masarat Alam Bhat being investigated over such charges. Arrested by the NIA, the three separatists have been sent to judicial custody till July 12.

A second official said the NIA’s terror financing investigations in Jammu and Kashmir have revealed a steady flow of funds for terrorist activities. Pakistan-based Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the banned terror group Jammat-ud- Dawa, Hizbul Mujahedeen chief Syed Salahuddin and other Hurriyat leaders are key accused in the terror-financing case that the monitoring group will track, the official said.

Another official said that Masarat Alam Bhat is believed to have told the NIA that Pakistan regularly sends funds through the hawala route.

Full report at:




South Asia


Nine Lankan Muslim Ministers Who Quit Likely Reconsidering Decision on Request of Buddhist Leaders

June 15, 2019

Nine Sri Lankan Muslim ministers, who resigned recently in the wake of growing anti-minority sentiments in the country following the Easter suicide bombings, are likely to rejoin their office on the request of chief Buddhist prelates.

Along with the nine ministers, two provincial governors from the minority community also resigned on June 3 to allow the Lankan government to investigate allegations against some of them on links to an Islamist extremist group blamed for the deadly terror attack that claimed 258 lives.

“There will be a meeting on June 18 to reconsider our positions since we have been asked to return to our ministerial positions,” AHM Haleem, who was one of the ministers to quit, told reporters here on Saturday.

Haleem, who was the Minister of Posts, said the ministers are reconsidering their decision after the chief Buddhist prelates urged them to return to the government.

There are 19 Muslims lawmakers in the 225-member Parliament and nine of them held Cabinet, state and deputy ministerial positions.

The nine Muslim politicians had also protested what they term the government’s inability to ensure the safety of their community which constitute 9 per cent of the island’s 21 million population.

Their resignations came four days after thousands of people, majority of whom were Buddhist monks, launched a protest in the pilgrim city of Kandy, demanding the expulsion of three Muslim leaders whom they alleged were linked to the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) – the banned outfit blamed for the attacks on three Colombo hotels and three churches.

The three were Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Badiyudeen, Western Province governor Azath Salley and Eastern Province governer ALM Hisbullah. All of them have rejected the allegations.

In a related development, former governor Hisbullah was questioned for over eight hours on Saturday by the Terrorism Investigation Division of the police over his alleged links to the NTJ.




Afghan Special Forces arrest another Taliban fighter holding Pakistani NIC

15 Jun 2019

The Afghan Special Forces arrested another Taliban fighter who was holding a National Identity Card of Pakistan.

The Special Operations Corps in a statement said the Special Forces conducted an operation in Kajaki district of Helmand on Thursday night.

The statement further added that the Special Forces destroyed 3 compounds of Taliban during the operation.

They also killed one Taliban fighter during the same operation.

Furthermore, the Special Forces arrested two Taliban fighters with one of them holding a Pakistani National Identity Card, the Special Operations Corps added.

Meanwhile, the Special Forces confiscated some explosives, two motorcycles and a radio communication device during the operation.

Full report at:




U.S. Peace Talks with the Taliban: Will Trump Succeed in Ending America’s Longest War in Afghanistan?

15 Jun 2019

The author is a researcher at the department of International Relations at Stockholm University in Sweden. He was recently the Vice President of the Stockholm Association of International Affairs (SAIA) and has worked with different national and international organizations in Afghanistan. 

President Trump inherited his predecessor’s fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, at the peak of its intensity and has been fairly consistent in vowing to defeat the extremist group and bring U.S. troops back home.

In December he unexpectedly announced pulling out roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, which filled everyone with shock and hysteria. The screaming grew louder when it was reported that he intends to withdraw half of the American forces from Afghanistan, a move that immediately set off a storm and prompted bipartisan backlash from lawmakers and his own national security advisers.

More than seventeen years after the US invasion, the Taliban are stronger and more dangerous than ever. The Afghan government is in disarray. The conflict has reached something close to a stalemate and the American forces are not even closer to defeating the Taliban.

Trump, frustrated with stalemate in Afghanistan, last year decided to open talks directly with the Taliban to end America’s longest ever war. The adversaries now are making headway in negotiations and have agreed in principle on a framework to end the conflict.

Trump’s special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the American side in the talks and Taliban is represented by their office chief, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai and co-founder of the movement Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. They have so far completed their sixth round of face-to-face peace talks that began in late 2018 in Doha, the Qatari capital.

Additionally, since 2018 three meetings have been completed in Moscow between the Taliban, representatives from Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and prominent Afghan politicians, including previous president Hamid Karzai.

The two sides have agreed on a “draft framework” that discusses the withdrawal of U.S. troops in return for some sort of guarantees from the Taliban, that the Afghan soil will never again be exploited by international “terror” groups and implementation of ceasefire all across the country. However, the Taliban insists that it will make no commitments until U.S. announces a withdrawal timeline.

The militant group, however, has repeatedly refused to negotiate with the Afghan government directly. They believe that the country has been occupied by the foreign forces when their regime was overthrown in 2001 by the US-led military intervention. The government in Kabul has no real power, calling it a U.S. imposed “puppet” regime. Engagement of any sort with the government in Kabul would grant it legitimacy, the group says.

Let’s consider two possible scenarios here: What will happen if the US-Taliban peace talks succeed or fall apart?

There is certainly a growing desperation for peace among ordinary Afghans and if the talks collapse, war will further intensify and the civilians will suffer more. The U.S. and rest of the world would have to cope with a security vacuum in which extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda find fertile ground. In addition, alarming rise in the production of drugs and a massive influx of refugees would not only pose dire challenges to Afghanistan, but the entire region and rest of the world.

But if the Trump administration rushes into some kind of peace settlement with the Taliban, the pact certainly won’t be devoid of setbacks for human rights and women’s rights in particular. Majority of Afghans, especially women fear that a peace settlement with the Taliban could restrict their freedom and rights that have been won since the regime was toppled by the U.S.

Taliban on the other hand, has reassured that if they return to power, women rights would be protected, as long as they are in accordance with the Islamic and Sharia principles. A statement that leaves much to interpretation.

The conflict in Afghanistan is the longest in American history, outlasting World War I, World War II, Civil War, Korean War, and Spanish-American war combined. Thousands of American and NATO forces died along with tens of thousands of civilian casualties, and a trillion-plus dollar in expenditures, there will be no outright victory in Afghanistan anytime soon.

Full report at:




Airstrikes kill 5 Taliban; Special Forces detain 3 in Helmand province

16 Jun 2019

A series of airstrikes killed 7 Taliban fighters in Helmand province in South of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Special Forces arrested 3 Taliban fighters during a separate operation in this province.

The informed military officials said Sunday that the Special Forces arrested the Taliban fighters in Nahr-e-Saraj district.

The Special Forces also destroyed 30 kilograms of illegal narcotics.

Meanwhile, an airstrike killed 2 Taliban fighters in Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province.

The officials also added that a similar airstrike killed 5 Taliban fighters in Sangin disrrict of the province.

Full report at:




7 Taliban militants killed, 10 arrested in Logar and Ghazni operations

16 Jun 2019

The security forces conducted operations in Logar and Ghazni province killing at least 7 Taliban fighters.

The informed military sources said Sunday that the security forces also arrested 10 Taliban fighters during the operations.

The sources further added that the Afghan Special Forces arrested 10 Taliban fighters during an operation in Pul-e-Alam district of Logar.

Meanwhile, the security forces conducted three airstrikes in Andar district of Ghazni and killed 7 Taliban fighters.

Full report at:




12 Taliban militants killed in Special Forces raid, airstrike in Zabul

15 Jun 2019

The security forces killed 12 Taliban fighters during separate operations in two districts of Zabul province.

The informed military sources said Saturday that the Afghan Special Forces killed 11 Taliban fighters during an operation in Shah Joy district of Zabul.

The sources further added that the Special Forces also detained two militants during the operation.

The sources also added that an airstrike killed 1 Taliban fighter in Shinkay district of Zabul.

Full report at:




Kabul city resident arrested for cooperating with the terrorists: MoI

15 Jun 2019

The police forces in Kabul have arrested a resident of Kabul city on charges of cooperating with the terrorists.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a statement said the police forces arrested the suspect from Chelsitoon area of Kabul.

The statement further added that the suspect was cooperating with Taliban militants.

The ministry has not disclosed further information regarding the detained individual.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior added in its statement that the suspect is in police custody and an investigation is underway from him.

Full report at:




No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

June 16, 2019

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.

“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.

Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.

Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.

Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.

In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.

He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”

Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.

He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.

Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.

Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.

“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”

Full report at:




Southeast Asia


Maldives seek foreign help to deal with IS fighters

June 16, 2019

COLOMBO: The Maldives Saturday called for international help to rehabilitate up to 160 of its nationals languishing in Syrian detention camps after the defeat of the Islamic State group.

Speaker Mohamed Nasheed said the Maldives kept a close tab on citizens who had joined the militant group, but that the island nation was not ready to accept them back without an internationally supervised reintegration programme.

Visiting neighbouring Sri Lanka where 258 people were killed in jihadi attacks recently, Nasheed said the question of foreign IS fighters in Syria should be addressed as a global issue.

As many as 160 Maldivians are thought to be held in detention camps after the fall of IS in March.

“We do not know the situation they have gone through. We don’t have the capacity to rehabilitate these people to the extent that they will not have a further impact on society,” Nasheed said.

“I think the international community should join together and decide what we should do to the returnees. Hopefully, there is an international arrangement where they are first received, not necessarily to their countries of origin or nationality.”

He said the Maldives was concerned about the 30 to 40 children said to be of Maldivian parents now living in detention camps in Syria, but insisted that there should be international involvement to screen the parents.

“I don’t think we should say they can come back in the first flight they can catch,” he added.

Nasheed said the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims was keeping a close watch on any attempt to radicalise its population, which is known to practise a liberal form of Islam – and relies heavily on luxury tourism.

More than two-thirds of the Maldivian parliament was spending a three-day holiday in Sri Lanka, to demonstrate it was safe for foreigners to visit the island after the deadly Easter Sunday attacks, Nasheed said.

In a chilling warning of the impact of terrorism on tourism, Sri Lanka’s thriving tourism sector is projected to lose at least US$1.5 billion revenue this year with a 30% slump in the number of holidaymakers visiting the island.

Nasheed and his legislators were staying at the luxury Cinnamon Grand – one of the three hotels hit by a local jihadi group which pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – to show Sri Lanka was still a safe tourist destination.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew to Sri Lanka last week, the first world leader to visit the island after the Easter attacks.

Sri Lankan authorities say they have arrested all those who were involved in the April 21 attacks that also hit three Christian churches.




Dr Mahathir visits Albukhary Foundation Gallery at British Museum in London

16 June 2019

LONDON, June 16 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday visited the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World at the British Museum in Bloomsbury here.

He spent about one hour exploring the gallery, with the museum's deputy director Johanathan Williams explaining the awe-inspiring historical artefacts that reflect Islam’s glorious heritage.

Upon arrival he was greeted by museum officials, Malaysian High Commission officials and the children of businessman and philanthropist Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary — Sharifah Sofia and Syed Danial.

Also at the gallery were Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Sadiq Abdul Rahman. Dr Mahathir’s presence at the museum attracted the attention of hundreds of visitors with many aware of the world's oldest prime minister.

The visit is part of Dr Mahathir’s itinerary during his three-day working visit to the United Kingdom beginning yesterday.

The Albukhary Foundation Gallery is helping British Museum redisplay its important collections on Islamic heritage, and reflects the connections between the cultures of Islam and the ancient world on the one hand, and the cultures of the Mediterranean world and Europe on the other hand.

The Albukhary Foundation, an international non-profit charity organisation that focuses on social development, was established by Syed Mokhtar Shah Syed Nor Albukhary.

Full report at:




Meeting with Malaysian students to kick off Dr M’s busy UK schedule

June 15, 2019

LONDON: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrived here last night for a three-day working visit to the United Kingdom, accompanied by his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali.

Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman and several senior officials had arrived earlier to accompany Mahathir for the working visit.

Mahathir’s first itinerary is a meeting with representatives of the United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council for Malaysian Students this morning at the Malaysian High Commission here.

In the afternoon, the prime minister is to tour the new Al Bukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World at the British Museum in Bloomsbury here.

The gallery, established with the support of Malaysia’s Al Bukhary Foundation, is helping British Museum redisplay its important collections of Islamic heritage, which reflect the connections between the cultures of Islam and the Ancient World on the one hand, and the cultures of the Mediterranean World and Europe on the other.

Tomorrow, the visitors will attend a Hari Raya open house hosted by the high commission at Templewood Gardens in Camden, before Mahathir heads to Cambridge University, about 100km away, to give a talk on “Democracy in Malaysia and Southeast Asia” at the Cambridge Union.

In January, Dr Mahathir had delivered a talk at the Oxford Union, the debating society whose members are primarily from Oxford University, the oldest university in the English speaking world established in 1096.

The talk at Cambridge is expected to attract UK personalities and academicians as well as students from higher learning institutions, high commission officials said.

As part of the government’s efforts to attract foreign investment, Mahathir will attend a session with investors and industry players in the UK organised by Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) and Maybank to explore areas of cooperation to strengthen bilateral trade.

Trade between Malaysia and the UK had recorded a growth of 2% per annum with an annual bilateral trade ranging between RM12 billion and RM17 billion over the last 10 years.

Full report at:






Father of Pak bomb moves HC, seeks freedom of movement

Jun 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Founder of Pakistan's uranium enrichment programme Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan on Saturday filed a petition in the Lahore high court, requesting it to allow him freedom of movement.

Before filing the petition, Qadeer had sent a letter to Lahore HC chief justice Sardar Shamim Ahmed Khan, claiming that former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf, under the influence of the US, had pressured him to confess that he was responsible for nuclear proliferation. Qadeer wrote in the letter that he was handed over a written statement from Musharraf and ordered to read it on television.

Qadeer further stated that Musharraf had promised him that he would restore him to his position as a nuclear scientist after a few days of the televised confession but the former military dictator did not honour his promise. "Former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and lawyer SM Zafar were also witnesses in this matter," Qadeer said in his letter.

Following no response from the CJ, the nuclear scientist filed the petition in the HC, requesting it to allow him to move freely and contest his case himself.

"I am restrained from going anywhere, which is against the norms of moral values. I cannot go anywhere or attend any ceremony, which is regrettable," Qadeer complained.

"The respondents (the government of Pakistan and Strategic Plans Division Force) have imposed an illegal ban on me. I wish to appear before the court in person to explain my grievances but I am being restrained," the petition read.

Following 9/11, the US had mounted pressure on Pakistan, accusing it of giving nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya. In early 2004, the then regime led by Musharraf detained Qadeer in his home. On February 4, 2004, Qadeer appeared on state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) and confessed to running a proliferation ring, transferring technology to Iran between 1989 and 1991, and to North Korea and Libya between 1991 and 1997. He was immediately pardoned by Musharraf but placed under house arrest. Later, he retracted his confession and accused Musharraf of making him a scapegoat.

In February 2009, Qadeer was freed from five years of house arrest on a court order. In September that year, the US had warned that Qadeer still remained a serious proliferation risk, prompting Pakistani authorities to restrict his movement to his home again.




PM discusses with aides accountability, strategy to counter opposition

Amir Wasim

June 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Hours after returning home from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where he attended the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday spent a busy day at his Banigala residence holding meetings to discuss the post-budget political situation in the country and finalise the strategy to counter the opposition’s narrative on the economy situation and the ongoing accountability process.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) also announced on Saturday that the party had decided to form a provincial level organisation for yet to be constituted south Punjab province.

The prime minister also presided over a meeting of the National Task Force for Health, which had been established to look into health-related issues and make a strategy to provide health facilities to masses.

The most important gathering of the day at Banigala was a meeting of the party spokespersons and other senior members to discuss the strategy to highlight the party’s narrative on the budget and to counter the opposition’s protest.

A PTI spokesman told Dawn that in the meeting, Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh gave a briefing to the participants on the salient features of the budget which needed to be highlighted through media. The adviser also briefed the participants about the steps which the Ministry of Finance planned to take for achieving the revenue targets.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting were Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting Faisal Javed, Federal Minister for Comm­unications Murad Saeed and Punjab Information Minister Samsam Bokhari.

The spokesman said the prime minister also apprised the participants about the proposed high-powered commission to probe as to how successive governments of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) took Rs24 trillion loans during the last decade and brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. He said the prime minister had stated in the meeting that the commission with its terms of reference would soon be constituted.

The commission, he said, would also investigate those rulers who had set up camp offices at their home town residences and spent huge taxpayers money on them.

Meanwhile, a source quoted the prime minister to have stated that the country’s economy had come to a takeoff position and the economic woes of the nation would soon be over.

The source said the prime minister also made some comments about Pakistan-India World Cup cricket match scheduled to be played in Manchester (UK) today (Sunday).

According to an official handout issued by the party’s Central Media Department, during a meeting between Mr Khan and the party’s chief organiser Saifullah Khan Nyazee, it has been decided to form a provincial level organisation for south Punjab.

Mr Nyazee later in a statement said the PTI was committed to protecting rights of the people of south Punjab, including their political and administrative rights. He stated that he had sought directives from the prime minister to establish provincial level organisation which would be constituted as per guidelines laid down by the chairman.

“This organisation will carry forward the agenda of people’s welfare,” he said, adding that the reorganisation process of the party across the country would also be concluded soon.

The PTI chief organiser apprised Mr Khan on the homework so far done for reorganisation of the party.

Full report at:




PM orders resumption of hepatitis programme

June 16, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the resumption of the Prime Minister’s Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis C on Saturday.

The directions came during a meeting of the National Task Force for Health, which was established to look into health-related issues and make a strategy to provide health facilities to the public.

The Prime Minister’s Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme was in place across the country, but was abolished after the 18th Amendment devolved health to the provinces.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza said that the prime minister was briefed on the hepatitis C situation in Pakistan.

“Due to which Mr Khan directed to come with a line of action within a fortnight so that the programme would be started again,” he said.

There are five types of hepatitis, from A to E, but hepatitis C is a leading cause of death all over the world. According to estimates, more than 12 million people within Pakistan suffer from hepatitis B or C and each year brings about 150,000 new cases.

The disease is called a silent killer because many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated for years before developing complications and dying.

Full report at:




Putin appreciated Pakistan’s efforts for regional peace, says Qureshi

Jun 16, 2019

BISHKEK: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appreciated Pakistan’s role and efforts for promoting regional peace and security.

While talking to media, he said Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met briefly on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Bishkek.

Both leaders discussed the Afghanistan issue, the situation in the Middle East and Iran. PM Imran also took the Russian president into confidence on Kashmir’s situation, Qureshi told reporters.

He said the SCO forum provided an opportunity for peace, stability and regional connectivity.

During the summit on June 13, the prime minister while giving an interview to the Russian media, expressed his desire to increase military ties with Moscow.

PM Khan said he was happy with the burgeoning relationship between Pakistan and Russia.

“This is not the 60’s, things have changed drastically from the past riddled with ‘cold war’,” said Khan.

Full report at:




India hasn’t come out of its poll mindset, Pakistan will engage on ‘basis of equality’, says Qureshi

June 15, 2019

Asserting that Pakistan would hold talks with India on the “basis of equality” and in a “dignified manner”, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said the ball was in India’s court to engage with Islamabad and resolve all outstanding issues.

“So India has to make this decision, we are neither in haste nor troubled. When India prepares itself, it would find us prepared, but we will hold talks on the basis of equality, in a dignified manner,” Qureshi told Geo News on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

When asked about the demand by some people that Pakistan should not repeatedly invite India for talks, Qureshi said, “Neither we need to run after anyone, nor we need to demonstrate stubbornness. Pakistan’s approach is very realistic and well thought-out.”

The Pakistan foreign minister also accused the Indian government of being in the “election mindset” to keep their “vote bank intact”.

“India has not come out of its election mindset and the extreme position they had taken to influence their constituency and to keep their vote bank intact. It is still confined in that,” Qureshi said.

Qureshi was the first to confirm on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan exchanged pleasantries and a handshake in the leaders’ lounge. “They exchanged pleasantries and shook hands,” he said. He also told Pakistani media that Khan congratulated Modi on his election victory.

Separately, the Indian government sources, too, said Modi “exchanged usual pleasantries with Pakistan PM Imran Khan in the leaders’ lounge”. But they were also emphatic that there was “no meeting, no pull aside”.

India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.

Full report at:




Arab World


Human Rights Watch declares Houthi Abha airport attack a ‘war crime’ as another missile targets city

June 15, 2019

CAIRO: A leading rights group has called an attack by the Iranian-backed Houthis on Abha airport in Saudi Arabia an "apparent war crime" as the city was targeted again Saturday by the militia's missiles.

An Al Arabiya reported said Saudi forces intercepted a ballistic missile above the southwestern Saudi city. On Friday, Saudi forces intercepted five drones from Yemen, the Arab military coalition fighting to support the government said.

The drones targeted Abha airport, where a Houthi missile on Wednesday injured 26 civilians, and the nearby city of Khamis Mushait.

Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the Houthis to stop attacks on civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. "Commanders who order deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilian objects are responsible for war crimes," the group said.

The coalition targeted Houthi military sites in Sanaa on Saturday, including the militia’s air defense systems, Al Arabiya reported.

The spokesperson of the coalition, Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the operation aimed to destroy the Houthi militia’s threat to regional and international security.




Syrian Refugees Staying In Lebanon for Economic Reasons, Not Security Fear: Bassil

Jun 15, 2019

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says Syrian refugees are staying in Lebanon for economic reasons, even though three quarters of them could return to their homeland as they face no fear of political persecution or threat to their security.

“Most of the Syrians – much more than 75% – are no more in security and political fear, but are staying for economic reasons. We know more than 500,000 Syrians are working in Lebanon. They are working everywhere in breach of our labor laws, and yet even though they break the law they are not being repatriated."

“They are working in Lebanon, taking jobs from the Lebanese because they are paid at cheaper rate as they have no taxes to pay and they are being assisted on top of the wages they are paid,” Bassil said in an interview with British newspaper the Guardian published on Saturday.

Bassil further stressed that it was not his government’s policy to try to force Syrians to return to their country.

The top Lebanese diplomat then lauded his country’s record of welcoming Syrian refugees.

“No one country did what Lebanon did. No one country is able to host 200 refugees per square kilometer, more than 40% of its population… Despite all that we have endured we never thought of forcing anyone to return. We are talking of a dignified and safe gradual return for people who are willing."

“That now applies to the majority of Syrians in Lebanon because now most of Syria is safe and most of those in Lebanon do not face any political or security obstacles for their return. They are staying because they are assisted to stay in Lebanon, and if they go back to Syria they will lose that assistance. This is the main reason,” Bassil noted.

“They are receiving aid for every aspect of their lives; they are receiving free education, shelter and healthcare. They are better covered on health than the Lebanese. They are afraid that once they leave, they will lose the assistance,” the Lebanese foreign minister asserted.

More than one million Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon.

The Beirut government estimates that the true number of Syrians in Lebanon stands at 1.5 million.

In February, Lebanon's minister of state for displaced affairs said his country would stick primarily to a Russian strategy for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.

“The Russian strategy will be adopted as a basis for our approach toward the return of Syrian refugees to Syria,” Saleh Gharib told China’s official Xinhua news agency on February 6.

He also did not deny the possibility of visiting Syria, or conducting a direct dialogue with high-ranking government officials in Damascus to secure the return of Syrian refugees.

The strategy to help Syrian refugees go back to their homes was drawn up following a meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital city of Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

It specifies about 76 residential neighborhoods in Syria's central provinces of Homs and Hama, the northwestern province of Idlib as well as Damascus to enable the return of 360,000 Syrian refugees as a first step.

Full report at:




Saudi crown prince lashes out at Iran over tanker attacks

June 16, 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused arch-rival Iran of attacks on oil tankers in a vital Gulf shipping channel, adding he “won't hesitate” to tackle any threats to the kingdom, according to an interview published on Sunday.

Two tankers were struck by explosions on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, the second attack in a month in the strategic shipping lane amid a tense United States-Iran standoff, sparking fears of a regional conflagration and sending oil prices soaring.

“We do not want a war in the region... But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and our vital interests,” Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, in his first public comments since the attacks.

“The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese prime minister as a guest in Tehran and responded to his (diplomatic) efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which was Japanese.”

The prince also accused “Iran and its proxies” over May 12 attacks on four tankers anchored in the Gulf of Oman off the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah.

Thursday's attack on two tankers — the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous that was carrying highly flammable methanol when it was rocked by explosions and the Norwegian-operated Front Altair — came around the time Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian leaders in Tehran.

US President Donald Trump has said the twin attacks had Iran “written all over it”, rejecting Tehran's vehement denial.

Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is a bitter regional rival of Iran.

The US military on Friday released grainy footage it said showed an Iranian patrol boat removing an “unexploded limpet mine” from one of the tankers.

The UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Saturday called on world powers “to secure international navigation and access to energy”, a plea echoed by regional ally Saudi Arabia after the incident sent crude prices soaring.

Iran has repeatedly warned in the past that it could block the strategic Hormuz Strait in a relatively low-tech, high-impact countermeasure to any attack by the US.

Doing so would disrupt oil tankers travelling out of the Gulf region to the Indian Ocean and global export routes.

The UAE's Sheikh Abdullah, whose country is bitterly opposed to Iranian influence in the region, called for a de-escalation of tensions. “We remain hopeful in attaining a broader framework for cooperation with Iran,” he said at a summit in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih called for a “swift and decisive” response to threats against energy supplies after Thursday's “terrorist acts”.

Saudi crown prince warns against 'exploiting' Khashoggi murder

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned against “exploiting” the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi for political gains, in what appeared to be a veiled attack on Turkey.

Turkey's ties with Saudi Arabia have come under strain since the brutal murder last October of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which tarnished the international reputation of the crown prince.

Turkish officials were the first to report the murder and have continued to press Saudi Arabia for information on the whereabouts of his dismembered body, which has yet to be found.

“The death of Jamal Khashoggi is a very painful crime,” Prince Mohammed told pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published on Sunday.

“Any party exploiting the case politically should stop doing so, and present evidence to the [Saudi] court, which will contribute in achieving justice,” he added, without directly naming Turkey.

The prince, however, added that he wants strong relations with “all Islamic countries including Turkey”.

The CIA has reportedly said the murder was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler and heir to the Arab world's most powerful throne.

Saudi authorities strongly deny the allegation.

Saudi prosecutors have absolved the prince and said around two dozen people implicated in the murder are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men. Khashoggi, a US resident, had written critically of Prince Mohammed and was killed in what Riyadh described as a rogue operation.

Full report at:




Mortar attack on Iraqi base home to US troops, no casualties

15 June 2019

The Iraqi military says three mortar shells have hit an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, causing a small fire but no casualties.

The military statement says the attack on Balad air base occurred early Saturday.

The attack comes amid rising tension in the Middle East between the United States and Iran, which ratcheted up on Thursday after suspected attacks on two oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz.

Last month, a rocket exploded less than a mile away from the US Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.




Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces: monitor

15 June 2019

At least 35 combatants including 26 pro-regime forces were killed Saturday in clashes and air strikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian regime and Russian air strikes killed nine extremists and rebel fighters and clashes left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province.

On Friday, Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that Syria would not listen to Moscow and stop regime strikes in Idlib province.

Full report at:




Saudi Crown Prince: We don’t want war but we won’t hesitate to deal with threats

16 June 2019

In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the Kingdom does not want war but will not hesitate to deal with any threat.

“The kingdom does not want war in the region ... but we will not hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty and our vital interests,” he said in the interview.

“The Iranian regime did not respect the presence of the Japanese Prime Minister as a guest in Tehran. During his presence, they responded to his efforts by attacking two tankers, one of which belongs to Japan,” the Saudi Crown Prince added.

During the interview, the Saudi Crown Prince added that Iran’s recent attacks in the region required a firm stance from the international community.

“Iran reaped the economic benefits of the nuclear deal in order to support its hostile acts in the region and to spread chaos and destruction,” he said.

On the situation in Yemen, the Saudi Crown Prince said that Saudi Arabia supports "all efforts in reaching a political solution to the Yemeni crisis, but unfortunately, the Houthi militias are advancing Iran's agenda instead of the interests of Yemen and its people."

“We in the Kingdom cannot accept the presence of militias who operate outside of state institutions on our borders,” the Crown Prince said while adding: “We recently saw the malicious Houthi terrorist attacks on the oil facilities and Najran airport and the arrogance of the Houthi leaders who claimed the attacks. This proves once again that these militias do not care about the interests of the Yemeni people and in any political process to resolve the Yemeni crisis. Their actions reflect Tehran's priorities and needs, not Sanaa’s.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Asharq al-Awsat that Riyadh sees the importance for strategic relations with the United States as “a key factor in achieving security and stability in the region.”

“Our strategic relations with the United States will not be affected by any media campaigns or positions from here and there,” he said.

Regarding Sudan, the Saudi Crown Prince said the Kingdom cared about Khartoum’s security and stability and “will continue to support our Sudanese brothers in various fields until Sudan reaches what it deserves in prosperity, growth, and progress.”

The Saudi Crown Prince also spoke to Asharq al-Awsat regarding the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describing the killing as a “very painful crime.”

“We seek full justice and accountability. Any party seeking to exploit the issue politically should stop and provide to the court in the Kingdom any evidence which will contribute toward achieving justice,” he said.

Here is the full text of the interview:

Asharq al-Awsat: The region has recently witnessed dangerous developments that threaten the security and stability of the region and world. What is Saudi Arabia’s stance towards these developments and how does the Kingdom deal with this escalation?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Saudi Arabia’s stance is clear as stipulated in its official statements. It does not want a war in the region, but we will not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests. Our priority is our national interest and achieving the aspirations of our people through the economic and social goals of the Kingdom’s vision 2030 and through development, and economic and social reform. This demands a stable and enabling environment within the Kingdom and region. This is why you will find that the role of the Kingdom, whether in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, Horn of Africa or other regions, is supporting stability and peace. This is a policy that the Kingdom has adopted since its establishment whereby it has always sought to shun division, sectarianism and extremism and instead preserve unity and stability in the region and international peace.

The Kingdom also plays an important role in the international community through its efforts to ensure that oil supplies pass through vital routes that surround it with the aim of protecting the stability of the global economy. The world witnessed how we dealt with the Iranian tanker in the Red Sea. It was handled based on what our morals and principles and what international treaties and norms demand. In return, we see how the Iranian regime and its proxies have carried out sabotage operations against four oil tankers near Fujairah port. Two of the tankers were Saudi. This confirms the approach followed by this regime in the region and entire world. Plenty of evidence supports this and which has accumulated over many years.

We must not forget that this regime had openly declared since 1979 that its priority and main goal is to export the revolution. It seeks to achieve this at the expense of the aspirations of its people and the peoples of the region. This explains the behavior of the Iranian regime. The export of the revolution and Wilayat al-Faqih principle demand the destabilization of countries and the region, stoking sectarianism, spreading extremism and dedicating the resources of the Iranian people towards financing and arming terrorist militias.

Despite this, the Kingdom has constantly extended its hand for peace with Iran to avoid the horrors of wars and destruction on the region and its people. Saudi Arabia even supported the nuclear deal with Iran because the Kingdom has throughout history never spared an effort to resolve any crisis through diplomatic and peaceful means. We had hoped that the Iranian regime would have taken advantage of this initiative to change its behavior towards the countries in the region and see it as a first step towards Iran’s return to the international community as a normal state. Unfortunately, Iran misused the economic benefits of this deal to support its hostile acts in the region. It continued to violate international resolutions. It was better off dedicating the economic benefits in improving the lives of the Iranian people, developing infrastructure and achieving economic development instead of continuing its destructive behavior in the region.

Iran’s recklessness has reached unprecedented levels. After the nuclear pact, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ budget increased and it intensified its support for sectarian militias in the region and even the whole world. We have all seen how terrorist and hostile Iranian operations were recently thwarted in Europe. This is why the Kingdom supported the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran. It did so out of our belief that the international community needed to take a decisive stance against Iran. It must also take the necessary measures to limit the regime’s ability to spread chaos and destruction in the whole world.

Recent developments in the region, including the targeting of Aramco oil pumping stations by the Iran-backed Houthi militias, underscores the importance of our demand for the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades not only in the region, but the whole world.

The choice is clear before Iran. Does it want to be a normal country that plays a constructive role in the international community or does it want to be a rogue state? We hope that the Iranian regime would opt to become a normal country and cease its malign behavior.

Asharq al-Awsat: You have pointed to the American stance on Iran, which coincides with the Saudi stance, as is the case with the majority of strategic issues. Recent months have, however, seen criticism directed at the Kingdom from within the United States over a number of issues, especially the Jamal Khashoggi case. Has this criticism affected the strategic cooperation between the two countries?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: The Kingdom places great importance on the strategic ties with the US. They are relations that extend to more than 70 years during which this strategic partnership has defeated several challenges that have targeted the security, stability and sovereignty of our countries. Our ties with the US are important and pivotal, not only for achieving joint interests, whether economic, on the security level or others, but they are a main factor in achieving regional security and stability. Together with the US, and in cooperation with several countries in the region and world, we seek to achieve sustainable stability in the region that would establish the necessary environment to meet the aspirations of its people to live in dignity and real development. We do so by confronting the forces of chaos, destruction and instability embodied in terrorist organizations and their state-sponsors, starting with the Iranian regime, and confronting all forms of extremism.

As for media campaigns or some stances in the US, they certainly do not serve the joint interests of our countries. Throughout the Kingdom’s history, however, we have previously faced such campaigns that are often biased and not based on accurate information. We constantly seek to clarify facts and misconceptions by some parties in the US and other countries. We listen to various views and we welcome constructive and rational advise, but ultimately our priority is our national interest. Our priority is the citizen in Riyadh, Jeddah, Jazan, Tabuk, Dammam and other regions in the Kingdom, not the beliefs or views of others about the Kingdom. Throughout the Kingdom’s history, we have managed to work with our main allies, despite natural differences that exist between all countries, by respecting the sovereignty of nations and avoiding meddling in their internal affairs. We expect nothing less than reciprocal treatment when it comes to our sovereignty and internal affairs. I am confident that our strategic relations with the US will not be affected by media campaigns or arbitrary stances.

As for the murder of citizen Jamal Khashoggi, as I have previously said, this is a very painful crime that is unprecedented in the history of the Kingdom. Such acts are alien to our culture and contradict our principles and values. The Kingdom has taken the necessary measures, whether through the judiciary to hold the perpetrators to account or through taking procedural measures to prevent such unfortunate crimes from taking place again in the future. These measures stem first and foremost from the importance we place, in the Kingdom, on the lives of every Saudi citizen, irrespective of their views. These measures have not and will not be affected by any other factors. We are a state governed by the rule of law and it is unacceptable for the life of a citizen to be violated in such a painful way under any circumstance. Unfortunately, the suspects are government employees and we seek to achieve full justice. Any party seeking to politically exploit the case must cease doing so and present whatever evidence it has to the courts in the Kingdom to help achieve justice.

Asharq al-Awsat: Does the agreement with the US on Iran apply to the situation in Syria, especially in wake of the American decision to withdraw from the country?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We are in agreement on the objectives in Syria, which are the defeat of the ISIS, preventing the re-emergence of terrorist organizations, dealing with the destabilizing Iranian influence in Syria and using all possible means to achieve political transition according to Resolution 2254, in a manner that preserves Syria’s unity. We are working with friendly countries to achieve these goals.

Asharq al-Awsat: How do you interpret the Japanese Prime Minister’s recent visit to Iran and his meeting with the supreme leader?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We thank the (Japanese) prime minister for his good intentions and the Kingdom’s hand is always extended for peace to achieve security and stability of the region.

The Iranian regime, however, did not respect the (Japanese) prime minister as a guest (in Iran) during his visit and in effect responded to his efforts by attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf, one of which was apparently Japanese. It also employed its militias to carry out a heinous attack against Abha Airport. This is clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region. Iran is the party that is constantly escalating tensions in the region. It carries out terrorist attacks and immoral acts of aggression directly or through its militias. The problem lies in Tehran, not anywhere else. As I have previously stated, Iran must choose between becoming a normal country that plays a constructive role in the international community or remain a rogue state and assume the international consequences of its choice.

Asharq al-Awsat: The Turkish president and other Turkish officials have recently escalated their rhetoric in questioning the credibility of the Kingdom’s judiciary and held the Kingdom and its leadership responsible in Khashoggi’s case. How do you respond to such accusations?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi citizen and there is no doubt that what happened to him was painful and unfortunate. The Kingdom has taken all measures to hold the perpetrators accountable and the accused have been referred to the judiciary. The judiciary in the Kingdom is an independent authority and no one can meddle in its affairs. We confront any development firmly and without hesitation, by taking the steps that are necessary to achieve justice, rectify any flaw and prevent mistakes from taking place again, while disregarding any claims and accusations.

As for the statements by some Turkish officials towards the Kingdom, the Kingdom, as the home of the two holy mosques, seeks strong ties with all Islamic countries, including Turkey. This is important for the interest of the region and joint Islamic work in particular. In the Kingdom, we work in service of the holy mosques and their visitors. We work on achieving the security and stability of our nation, not becoming embroiled in disputes that harm the interests of our nation and Islamic world. We will forge forward in achieving these goals, without getting distracted by positions taken by some for their own domestic considerations that are known to everyone.

Asharq al-Awsat: Four years have passed since the Arab Coalition kicked off its operations in Yemen. How do you assess the political and military progress that has been achieved and what are the prospects for resolving the crisis in Yemen, especially in wake of the Stockholm deal and terrorist Houthi attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations and its Najran and Abha airports?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Many parties forget or claim to forget how the crisis in Yemen first broke out. The coalition operations began after the international community had exhausted all political solutions between Yemeni parties and the Houthi militias. One must be reminded that the Kingdom is the pioneer of the political solution. It presented the GCC initiative and worked on achieving peaceful political transition in Yemen in 2011. It supported the national dialogue and presented over 7 billion dollars in economic support for Yemen between 2012 and 2014. Since 2011, the Kingdom’s efforts have sought to achieve smooth political transition in a manner that preserves the country’s independence and sovereignty and unity of its political and security institutions to prevent it from slipping into chaos.

Indeed, the Yemeni parties met in Riyadh and signed the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism. All Yemeni parties, including the Houthis, were present at the comprehensive national dialogue.

Unfortunately, Iran obstructed the political process in Yemen through its proxy houthi militias, which started to occupy Yemeni cities and seize the state’s various resources and capabilities. The Kingdom offered all possible opportunities to resolve the situation through peaceful means, but Iran was following a policy of imposing a new reality in Arab countries by force of arms. Unfortunately, the international community at the time did not confront Iran’s expansionist and sectarian agenda. Iran therefore, continued to try, through its militias, to impose its control in Yemen. The Yemeni people and leadership, however, made a historic stand against this Iranian interference. Along with our brothers in the coalition, we responded immediately to the appeal of the legitimate government to protect Yemen and its people and our national security. The Kingdom cannot accept the presence of militias operating outside the apparatus of states on our borders.

Most Yemeni territories have been liberated and we have supported all efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis. Unfortunately, the Houthi militias prioritize Iran’s agenda over the interests of Yemen and its people. We have recently witnessed the terrorist attack on oil facilities and Najran airport, which the Houthis boasted of claiming. This once again demonstrates that these militias do not care for the interests of the Yemeni people or any political process to resolve the crisis. Their actions reflect the priorities of Tehran, not Sanaa.

The Arab Coalition’s stance is very clear about resolving the crisis. We support efforts to reach a political solution based on UN Security Council resolution 2216, the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism, and national dialogue outcomes. We accept the participation of all Yemeni parties in the political process, but according to the three references. The Kingdom will not accept the militias to remain outside state control. We will pursue this ultimate goal and maintain our operations and continue on offering support to the Yemeni people in their effort to protect their independence and sovereignty despite our sacrifice. The Kingdom will also maintain its humanitarian and economic relief in Yemen. We not only seek to liberate Yemen from the Iranian militias, but achieve prosperity and stability for all of the people of Yemen.

Asharq al-Awsat: You have spoken of a dream to transform the Middle East into the new Europe. How do you confront obstacles in reaching this dream given the major regional political upheaval and economic and development challenges?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We must not become hostages of temporary conditions that prevent us from fulfilling our primary duty, as leaders in the region, of reviving our states. Today’s challenges must also not prevent us from working promptly to achieve a better future for the coming generations.

You mentioned political upheaval. This is undoubtedly taking place in the region. At the same time, however, we must look at the overall Arab region and realize that the majority of the countries are unanimous in prioritizing a dignified life for the people and achieving security and stability. The people do not want to be hostages to ideological conflicts that waste their potential. We are before a precedent in that everyone shares one goal. Competition between the majority of our countries focuses on reaching the best standard of living for the people, attracting investment and achieving development in all fields.

The source of political upheaval is well known. They are terrorist groups, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and policies of the Iranian regime, the top sponsor of terrorism and extremism. We will not waste our time in offering partial solutions to extremism as history has proven the futility of such efforts. God willing, we will continue to forge forward in our unwavering approach in confronting all forms of extremism and sectarianism, and the policies that support them.

The Kingdom is the home of the Two Holy Mosques. It has been blessed with natural resources, a strategic location, and wise leadership since the days of its founder and until the present reign of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. It is also blessed with its great and innovative people. Today, it is living in security, stability and prosperity. It is unbecoming for this great nation not to occupy leading positions in all fields regardless of the conditions and challenges. We will not rest until we first achieve this goal for our nation and then our brothers in the region.

Asharq al-Awsat: How do you assess the upheaval in Sudan and the political changes?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We are greatly concerned with the security and stability of Sudan, not only due to the strategic importance of its location and danger of the collapse of its state institutions, but also the strong brotherly ties that bind us. Our brothers and sisters in Sudan have been and continue to be a part of our social fabric, they have contributed greatly to our progress in all fields. We will not spare any effort to achieve the security and stability for Sudan and its people. The Kingdom has taken measures to support the brotherly people of Sudan, including an economic aid package and depositing 250 million Dollars in its Central Bank. We will continue to support our brothers in all fields until Sudan achieves the prosperity and progress it deserves.

Asharq al-Awsat: Three years after launching Saudi Vision 2030, where are we at?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We moved from the planning and design phase to implementation on all levels, and started seeing results on the ground. On developing the financial sector, for example, we have seen noteworthy progress after the launching of the Vision as the Saudi market joined three global indices, the FTSE, the Morgan Stanley (MSCI) Emerging Markets Index, and S&P Dow Jones Indices. This will pump capital worth billions into the market. The Kingdom has seen a 40 % increase in investors in investment funds, a first since 2006. The Kingdom has recently achieved the greatest leap among some of the world’s most competitive countries in the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings 2019, ranking 26th, moving up 13 ranks compared to last year, and ranking 7th among G20 member states.

In the telecommunications and information sector, we witnessed remarkable development. The contribution of the digital economy to the GDP increased both directly and indirectly, with the Kingdom becoming one of the top 10 fastest e-commerce growing countries worldwide with a rate of 32%. Simultaneously, Internet speeds have improved fourfold to accelerate digital transformation. The Kingdom was also the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to roll out 5G network services back in 2018 in the Eastern Province for trial. Today, we have 1,000 communication towers in the Kingdom that are offering this new service and expanding.

In the field of energy and industry, non-oil exports increased by 22% in 2018 compared to 2017, and we launched many industrial cities in different regions across the Kingdom.

This confirms the keenness of the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to achieve balanced and comprehensive development in various cities and regions, including the King Salman Energy Park (Spark), Jizan, and Waad Al Shamal where the first phase of the production of phosphates and phosphate fertilizers has been achieved, laying down the foundation for the second phase, which will make the Kingdom, God willing, the second largest producer of phosphate fertilizers globally.

I would like to note that what is happening in the Kingdom is not simply a set of financial and economic reforms aiming to realize specific figures, but a comprehensive restructuring of the Kingdom’s macro-economy aimed at improving economic and development performance in the medium and long terms. We have undertaken major economic and structural reforms that contribute to fiscal balance and financial control and the diversification of income sources, while maintaining a continuing macroeconomic growth, sustaining public finances, supporting social expenditures, raising government spending efficiency and stimulating the private sector, which is considered a key partner in growth and development, and achieving the Vision’s objectives.

Asharq al-Awsat: But there are claims about setbacks in some of Vision 2030’s initiatives?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: What is happening in the Kingdom is a comprehensive structural change in the economy aimed at creating a shift in medium- and long-term economic performance. The Vision 2030 and its programs, like all strategic plans has to be reviewed and updated according to circumstances that may arise during implementation, without compromising its foundation or objectives and with the aim of achieving top results, especially at a time we have gained a higher quality of decision-making based on studies, analyses, figures, facts and data.

Responding to your question about some Vision-related initiatives that might be in decline: We do not expect this. The Vision’s programs are effectively contributing to the economic transformation process and we are now shifting from a rentier economy to one that is characterized by productivity and global competitiveness.

Asharq al-Awsat: Some may argue that the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is giving the private sector a run for its money with its direct investments and mega projects. What role does it play in achieving the Vision and how can negative effects be avoided?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: In line with Vision 2030 and in order to achieve its objectives, it was important to review the role of the PIF and transform it into a state sovereign fund. In 2015 we re-launched PIF with a new vision and mission aimed at developing new sectors in Saudi Arabia, investing in leading international partnerships and the formation of a new board of directors under my leadership. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of staffers increased from 40 to nearly 500 employees. Meanwhile, PIF assets have increased from SR500 billion to SR 1 trillion, nearly doubling within two years.

The PIF is now a vital state instrument for economic diversification, and targets both domestic and international investments. Domestically, it targets major project investments that the private sector alone cannot finance, such as NEOM, the Red Sea project and Qiddiya, that will offer dozens, if not hundreds, of good investment opportunities for the private sector.

For PIF and the government, it is of utmost importance to involve the private sector. We have earmarked 13 programs for privatization, giving the private sector a greater opportunity to participate in investment, achieve profitable returns and improve spending efficiency and services.

In terms of foreign investments, apart from achieving attractive returns on its assets, PIF will play an important role in establishing economic partnerships that will help boost knowledge exchange, stimulate high-efficiency investments and enhance local content, generating long-term returns for future generations. The PIF also targets new strategic sectors such as tourism and entertainment. These sectors have an important dimension in stimulating foreign investment, regional development, creating a large number of jobs and improving overall quality of life.

The PIF operates under an outstanding level of corporate governance and transparent investment strategy, which were approved after completing its reform and governance process in 2015. It operates within a system that includes a board, executive committee and investment committee that play clear roles in guaranteeing distinguished levels of professionalism in performance. The PIF also has investment portfolios distributed according to development priorities, such as in Saudi companies, promising sectors and major projects.

Asharq al-Awsat: What are the latest developments in the privatization program?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We now have an exceptional and global center specialized in privatization that is built on the best practices drawn from experiences of more than 20 countries that have undertaken privatization in the past. When establishing the center, it was taken into account that it contains a legal structure ensuring the rights of both the state and investors. We have identified promising opportunities for privatization in 12 sectors. Our goal from the privatization program is for it to strengthen the effectiveness of the role of government and to maximize the contribution of the private sector to GDP.

In 2019, the National Center for Privatization (NCP) supported the signing of five agreements with a total value exceeding SR 12.5 billion, inked by local and international companies in various fields and with 70% foreign financing from six countries. These agreements include projects that focus on sewage treatment, desalination plants and health services, through dialysis centers.

The NCP is currently working on finalizing agreements totaling over SR2 billion and that cover flour mills and medical and shipping services. These agreements are expected to be completed by the end of 2019. Work is also underway for privatizing education sector projects, expected in 2020 with investments adding up to about SR1 billion.

In the future, the private sector will also have the largest investment share in electricity sector projects, especially power generation plans and including major renewable energy projects previously announced.

Asharq al-Awsat: Amidst such economic transformation, what is your Highness’s message to citizens?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: I am proud that Saudi citizens are driving change at a time many feared the Vision will face resistance due to the size of the change it entails. Many have told me that the most difficult part I will face in realizing this strategic transformation is resistance. But I saw this as a very small factor when looking at Saudi youth that is now leading change.

I would like to pay tribute to the role of young people in the transformation currently taking place in the Kingdom. It is a young Vision with a young spirit.

Discussions have shifted from a change desired from the state to the change we all make together.

Asharq al-Awsat: When following news about the anticipated Saudi Aramco’s IPO in global markets, we find there is a lack of information about the issue and the timeline. Where are matters now? And what actions have been taken in this regard?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: We are committed to the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco, but under the appropriate circumstances and in a timely manner. As I mentioned previously, I expect that it will happen between 2020 and the beginning of 2021, and setting the location of the IPO now is premature. Much of the work has been successfully completed, and the timeframe for the offering will depend on several factors including: market conditions for the IPO, given its size, and Aramco’s acquisition of a majority stake in SABIC from PIF.

The latter is a deal which would create a stellar transformation through establishing a fully integrated national energy and petrochemical company that will lead the global energy sector and further enhance Saudi Aramco’s growth potential and profitability in volatile oil markets.

As for preparations for Aramco’s IPO, several important actions have been taken, including the issuance of the hydrocarbon tax system, the re-issuance of an exclusive franchise agreement, the appointment of a new board of directors and the first-ever releasing of Aramco’s annual financial report and audit of its oil reserves. All these measures reinforce transparency, which is a core principle of Saudi Vision 2030, which is committed to protecting the Kingdom’s interests and those of potential investors.

Full report at:




Wildfires cause explosion at Syrian military zone in Damascus suburbs

Jun 15, 2019

Syria’s official news agency SANA says an explosion at a Syrian army ammunition depot in a military zone northwest of the capital Damascus was caused by wildfires.

“An ammunition depot for the Syrian army in northwestern Damascus exploded after a fire in nearby fields started spreading,” a military source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told SANA on Saturday.

The report added that the ammunition depot was located in a military zone in Dummar district, which is located in the northwestern flank of Damascus.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion wounded eight pro-government forces, with some of them being in critical condition.

The development came on the same day that Syrian government forces, backed by allied fighters from popular defense groups, made fresh gains in the country’s northwest, tightening the grip on members of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

Syrian army troops and their allies managed to take control of several strategic areas in Hama and Idlib provinces, dealing heavy blows to the foreign-sponsored terrorists.

The Damascus government says militants positioned in the two provinces are attacking army bases and residential areas in flagrant violation of a truce.

The Syrian army has warned that any possible large-scale attack by terror groups would mark their end. The stern warning comes amid reports that Takfiris are preparing to launch new attacks on government-held areas in the western part of the country.

Under a deal reached following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on September 17, 2018, all militants in a demilitarized zone, which surrounds Idlib and also parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo and Hama, were supposed to pull out heavy arms by October 17, and Takfiri groups had to withdraw by October 15 last year.

The National Front for the Liberation of Syria is the main Turkish-backed militant alliance in the Idlib region, but the Takfiri Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorist group, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits, largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, holds a large part of the province and the zone.

The HTS, which is said to be in control of some 60 percent of Idlib province, has yet to announce its stance on the buffer zone deal.

It is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 members of different factions of armed groups, which Syria, Russia and Turkey consider terrorists, are active in the volatile province, which is home to around three million inhabitants.

Full report at:




Iraqi base home to US troops comes under mortar attack north of Baghdad

Jun 15, 2019

The Iraqi military says unknown militants have launched three mortar shells into an air base just north of the capital Baghdad, where American trainers are present.

The military said in a statement that the attack on Balad Air Base, located 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Baghdad, took place early on Saturday and caused small fires in bushes on the base, The Associated Press reported.

The statement added that the projectiles did not cause any casualties, and the fires were extinguished immediately.

An Iraqi army general, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the assault occurred shortly after midnight Friday, adding that American trainers are stationed at the air base.

The attack comes only two days after the Iraqi satellite television channel Afaq TV, citing a report published by Arabic-language Ababeel news agency, said  several explosions had been heard near the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.

The report said the diplomatic mission sounded sirens following the blasts, which rocked areas adjacent to its premises.

No official statement confirmed the report and no further details were released.

On May 19, two Iraqi security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an explosion had been heard in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

A source told Arabic-language Shafaaq news agency that the explosion was believed to have been caused by a Katyusha rocket slamming into the area.

The Green Zone is one of the world's most high-security institutional quarters. Located in the center of the Iraqi capital, it houses parliament, the prime minister's office, the presidency, other key institutions, top officials' homes and embassies.

Full report at:






UK-Iranian Nazanin begins fresh hunger strike in Tehran jail

15 June 2019

A British-Iranian mother being held in a Tehran prison on sedition charges has begun another hunger strike in protest at her detention, her husband said on Saturday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, is refusing food as she marks her daughter’s fifth birthday, Richard Ratcliffe said in a statement.

His wife was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their infant daughter to visit her family. She was sentenced to five years for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

“She had informed the judiciary that she has begun a new hunger strike (she will drink water) -- to protest at her continuing unfair imprisonment,” he said.

“This is something she had been threatening for a while. Nazanin had vowed that if we passed Gabriella’s fifth birthday with her still inside, then she would do something -- to mark to both governments -- that enough is enough. This really has gone on too long.”

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she denies all charges.

She previously went on hunger strike in January.

“Her demand from the strike, she said, is for unconditional release. She has long been eligible for it,” said Ratcliffe.

“I do not know the response from the Iranian authorities.”

He urged the Iranian authorities to release her immediately, for the British embassy to be allowed to check on her health, and, if she is not released within the coming weeks, for him to be granted a visa to visit her.

Last month, London changed its travel advice for British-Iranian dual nationals, warning them against all travel to Iran, citing Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.




Saudi air defence forces intercept Houthi drone targeting Abha

15 June 2019

Saudi Arabia's air defense forces intercepted a drone launched by the Houthi militias targeting the southwestern city of Abha on Saturday, the Arab Coalition confirmed in a statement.

Arab Coalition Spokesperson Col. Turki al-Maliki said that the Houthis were “trying to target civilian facilities and civilian objects in desperate and repeated attempts.”

“We affirm our legitimate right to take the appropriate deterrence measures, with such hostile acts and in conformity with international humanitarian law and its customary rules,” he said.

Earlier reports had said that the attack on Saturday was in the form of a ballistic missile.

Saudi forces on Friday intercepted five drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias, an Arab-led military coalition said.

Full report at:




Turkey slams southern EU nations on drilling bid off Cyprus

15 June 2019

Turkey has criticized the leaders of southern European Union nations for urging the EU to consider taking action against Turkey over its bid to drill for gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Saturday that a declaration issued by the leaders of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Malta shows the EU cannot be a “neutral and trusted actor” to resolve divided Cyprus.

It called on EU states to acknowledge Turkish Cypriots’ equal rights over the island's resources. It added that Turkey, which has sent a drill ship to Cyprus’ western coast, was determined to protect those rights.

Full report at:




Iran, Turkey presidents express opposition to sanctions, unilateralism

Jun 15, 2019

Presidents of Iran and Turkey have expressed their opposition to any kind of sanctions and unilateralism in international relations.

Iran is keen to expand relations with Turkey in all fields, particularly in economic and trade sectors, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the fifth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Tajikistan's capital of Dushanbe on Saturday.

"Iran and Turkey have taken valuable steps to expand and deepen relations in recent years and this trend should be accelerated in proportion to enormous capacities and opportunities," the Iranian president said.

Iran and Turkey have agreed to step up their economic cooperation with the aim of reaching a $30-billion target set for their annual trade, voicing concern over the re-imposition by the US of unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic, a move which they say could affect the entire region's economy.

The Iranian president also hailed "effective, successful and important" cooperation between Tehran and Ankara on regional issues and said, "Bilateral and trilateral cooperation, including with Russia, on regional issues, the Astana [peace] process, the fight against terrorism and Syria's stability are very important and in line with promoting peace and stability in the region."

At the end of the first day of the 12th round of Astana talks on April 25, Russian president’s special envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said Iran, Russia, and Turkey, the three guarantor states of a ceasefire regime in Syria, are “clearly determined” to continue their fight against terrorism in the Arab country.

“The talks dealt with the situation in Syria in general, and in the northwestern region of Idlib in particular where the terrorist organization of Jabhat al-Nusra controls the majority of the area,” Lavrentiev said.

Turkey firm to boost all-out ties with Iran: Erdogan

The Turkish president, for his part, hailed growing relations between Tehran and Ankara and said his country attaches importance to further expansion of ties.

Turkey is determined to enhance its relations with Iran in all fields, Erdogan said.

Enhanced ties with neighbors, Iran's foreign policy priority: Rouhani

The Iranian president said the expansion of relations with neighboring and friendly countries, particularly Qatar, is among main priorities of the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.

"Stability and security of regional countries are intertwined," Rouhani said in a meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on the sidelines of the CICA conference.

"Bilateral and multilateral consultation and more cooperation are the only ways to reduce differences and solve regional problems," he added, expressing Iran's readiness to play a role in this regard.

The Iranian president stressed the importance of forging unity and integrity in the Muslim world and said Tehran and Doha can make joint efforts to achieve this goal.

Cordial relations between the two countries are beneficial to regional nations, he added and urged both sides to make use of great potential to further boost economic relations to serve the two nations' interests.

Dialog, collective cooperation only solutions to regional conflicts: Al Thani

The Qatari emir, for his part, said dialog, collective cooperation and political approaches are the only solutions to regional conflicts.

Full report at:




Yemeni drones target airport installations south of Saudi Arabia

Jun 15, 2019

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has launched fresh drone attacks on areas south of Saudi Arabia to compensate for kingdom’s devastating bombardment of the impoverished country.

The Houthi-run al-Masirah TV said in a Saturday report that the “large-scale and measured” drone operations had successfully targeted airports in Jizan and Abha regions.

It cited a spokesman of the Yemeni armed forces as saying that the installations targeted in the operation by Qasif K2 drones were now out of service. It said the control rooms in Jizan airport and the fuel station in Abha airport were the main target of the attacks.

The spokesman said the attacks were in retaliation for Saudi “aggression” against Yemen, saying such attacks will intensify in size and number if Riyadh continued with its bombardment and blockade of the impoverished Yemenis.

Al-Masirah said air traffic monitoring centers at Jizan and Abha airports had confirmed the Saturday attacks.

However, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV said that a ballistic missile targeting the city of Abha, located to the southwest of Saudi Arabia, had been intercepted.

The Houthis have intensified their so-called retaliatory attacks on military positions in southern Saudi territories over the past few days. The main targets in those attacks have been installations in Jizan, Najran, Abha and Khamis Mushait.

In a major attack last month, Yemeni drones managed to hit key oil installations in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The attacks come as Saudi Arabia continues to target crowded civilian locations across Yemen heedless of international criticism.

The Saturday attacks came a day after Saudis bombarded areas in Yemen's capital Sana’a and in the northwestern province of Hajjah.

Full report at:




Yemeni retaliation expected after Saudi jets bomb Sana'a

Jun 15, 2019

Saudi Arabia has launched new airstrikes on Yemen's capital and the northwestern province of Hajjah after the Houthis called for “serious talks" to reach a peace agreement.

Yemen’s Arabic-language al-Masirah news website said Saudi warplanes pounded the Bani Hushaish district in Sana’a late Friday. Saudi media confirmed the air raids.

Saudi state TV claimed that the airstrikes targeted military positions, including air-defense systems, in the Yemeni capital.

The Saudi warplanes also conducted air raids on the city of Harad in the province of Hajjah on Friday, al-Masirah said.

There were no immediate reports on possible casualties as a result of the air raids.

Saudi Arabia launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi movement.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.

Yemen’s army and allied popular committees have carried out various attacks on Saudi positions in retaliation for the kingdom’s fatal aggression against their country.

Earlier on Friday, Yemeni Qasif-2K drones targeted an airport in the Saudi province of Asir. The attack was the second on Abha airport in less than a week.

Ansarullah ready for talks with 'influential' countries

The Saudi airstrikes came after Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the chairman of Yemen’s Supreme Political Council, said Sana'a is ready to hold “serious talks with the influential countries” to achieve “fair peace”.

He told the Yemeni News Agency (Saba) that the aggressors have committed crimes in Yemen for years as the international law has not been applied.

Full report at:




Turkey’s Erdogan sees Russian S-400s coming from July: NTV

June 16, 2019

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he expected Russian S-400 missile defense systems to start arriving in Turkey in the first half of July, broadcaster NTV reported on Sunday, a development set to fuel tensions with NATO ally Washington.

“We discussed the S-400 subject with Russia. Indeed the S-400 issue is settled,” Erdogan was cited as telling reporters on his plane returning from a visit to Tajikistan. “I think they will start to come in the first half of July.”






Sudan says military council suspends decree on UN sites

15 June 2019

Sudan’s transitional military council has suspended implementation of a decree demanding that the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur hand over its premises as part of its withdrawal next year, a Sudanese diplomat said Friday.

Omer Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed told the UN Security Council that the transitional military council also decided on Thursday to withdraw all armed forces and other security forces from sites the government has already received from the peacekeeping force known as UNAMID.

The United Nations has opposed the transitional military council’s decree, saying under an agreement with the Sudanese government its facilities when handed over are to be used solely for civilian purposes.

Last July, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in the vast western Darfur region in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target for ending the mission is June 30, 2020, and Ahmed urged the council to keep to that timetable.

“We reject any attempt to postpone or suspend the exit of UNAMID given that there are no conditions, no justification or reasons for its presence,” Ahmed said.

Russia and China backed Sudan and urged the Security Council to stick to the timetable.

But Britain, Germany, South Africa, the United States and others raised questions about the impact on Darfur of the transitional military council’s crackdown on protesters last week that killed over 100 people and wounded hundreds more.

Earlier this week, the Security Council strongly condemned the violence and urged Sudanese authorities to immediately end the use of violence, respect human rights, and ensure justice and accountability.

A monthslong popular uprising against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule led to his fall from power in April, but there has been a standoff since then between the protesters and the transitional military council that succeeded him.

Britain’s Deputy UN ambassador Jonathan Allen told the council that his government and Germany are proposing “a technical rollover” to extend the UNAMID mandate, which expires June 30.

This “would provide time for progress on the broader political situation,” he said, and give time to resolve the issue of the handover of UNAMID sites.

South Africa’s UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said “there is an urgent need for an assessment of the drawdown” of the UNAMID force, given the political situation following al-Bashir’s ouster.

UNAMID must also ensure that its assets are handed over to civilian authorities - not the military, he stressed.




Somalia: Double car bomb blasts kill 9, wound 25

Mohammed Dhaysane 


At least nine people were killed and more than 25 wounded when a double car bomb blast rocked the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday afternoon, officials said.

Bashir Abdi Mohamed, Somali police commissioner, told reporters after the attacks that the first car bomb blast targeted a security checkpoint near the parliament building and killed eight people.

The second blast -- on a main road leading to the airport -- killed one person, he added.

Some 25 people were wounded and transported to hospitals for treatment, he added.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the car bomb attacks, but officials blamed terrorist group al-Shabaab, also suspected of being behind an attack in neighboring Kenya on Saturday.

Full report at:




Sudan prosecutor: Omar al-Bashir to be referred to trial after appeal period

15 June 2019

Former president Omar al-Bashir will be referred to trial after an appeal period of one week, Sudan’s acting prosecutor general told reporters on Saturday.

Al-Bashir had been charged with corruption. The announcement came more than two months after the military overthrew Bashir on April 11 following months of nationwide protests against his 30-year rule.

Bashir “will appear in court next week following charges of corruption and possessing foreign currency,” Al-Waleed Sayyed Ahmed said, without specifying the day.

He added that the investigation launched against Bashir for the charges had been completed.

In April, Sudan’s army ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s residence.

He said a team of police, army and security agents found seven million euros ($7.8 million), $350,000 and five billion Sudanese pounds ($105 million).

The acting prosecutor general said that 41 criminal cases have been opened against members of the former administration and they were under investigation.

He did not name the others accused but said most of the charges were related to the “possession of land”.

He also said the dispersal of the protesters was not discussed at the meeting he attended on dealing with criminals near the protest site.

High rates of corruption

Sudan suffered high rates of corruption during Bashir’s rule, ranking 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Last month, Ahmed ordered Bashir questioned over money-laundering and “financing terrorism”.

In an effort to quell protests that erupted against his rule in December, Bashir imposed a nationwide state of emergency on February 22.

Full report at:




UN: Dozens of migrants stranded off Tunisia for 15 days

15 June 2019

Dozens of migrants rescued in international waters off Tunisia are still stranded 15 days later as authorities refuse to allow the boat carrying them to access a nearby port, the UN said Friday.

Egyptian tugboat Maridive 601 rescued 75 migrants off the southern Tunisian coast in late May after they embarked from Libya, a key launchpad for sub-Saharan Africans making dangerous bids to reach Europe by sea.

The vessel has been anchored since May 31 off the southern port of Zarzis, where authorities have refused to allow the vessel to dock despite an appeal by the boat’s captain.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration said on Friday that the vessel’s owners have since been providing those aboard with food and water.

Tunisian officials contacted by AFP refused to comment on the situation, although an interior ministry official said last week, on condition of anonymity that “the migrants want to be welcomed by a European country.”

Humanitarian groups say Tunisia, which has already received several hundred migrants since the start of the year, is reluctant to take on more new arrivals, demanding that they agree to be repatriated before being allowed to enter Tunisian territory.

The IOM said at least 32 unaccompanied minors were on the boat, and offered to help Tunisia host the migrants.

It added that 10 of those aboard the boat - nine Egyptians and a Moroccan - had expressed interest in returning home.

“We ask for the reinstatement of mechanisms to care for migrants rescued at sea” to prevent similar incidents in the future, said IOM’s Tunisia head Lorena Lando.

In 2018, Tunisian authorities prevented more than 11,400 irregular crossings of the Mediterranean, Interior Minister Hichem Fourati told parliament on Friday.

He said they had also arrested hundreds of people suspected of involvement in people-trafficking.

Full report at:




Sudan: Al-Bashir due in court within week

Mohammed Amin 


Sudan’s ousted president will appear in court within a week, said the nation’s acting attorney general on Saturday.

Omar Al-Bashir’s trial will begin next week, as he has appealed the charges against him, which include corruption and ordering protesters killed, said Al-Waleed Sid-Ahmed Mahmoud, the acting attorney general.

Speaking to reporters, Mahmoud also denied his own involvement in the breakup of a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum.

More than 100 people have been killed since June 3, when the army stepped in against protesters.

He further stressed that he did not attend a meeting with the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that ordered dispersal of the sit-in.

This claim is at odds with the account of council spokesman Shams Aldin Kabashi, who told reporters Mahmoud was there.

Mahmoud also vowed he would resign if any official tries to intervene in his work or his independence.

After al-Bashir was deposed in April, a Transitional Military Council (TMC) began a two-year “transitional period.”

Full report at:




Kenyan Police Blame Al-Shabab For Blast Near Somalia That Left Officers Dead

June 15, 2019

Police officials in Kenya say the al-Shabab extremist group is responsible for a deadly explosion Saturday morning that reportedly killed 10 police officers near the country's border with Somalia.

Around 10:50 a.m. local time, a police vehicle carrying 11 officers on patrol hit an improvised explosive device, killing several of the officers, Kenya police spokesman Charles Owino told NPR.

The 10 deaths were reported by The Associated Press but Kenyan officials say they're still trying to confirm the number of police officer casualties, Owino said.

Those killed, according to the AP, were pursuing extremists who had kidnapped police reservists.

In a statement to NPR, Kenya's Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said additional resources have been deployed near the Somali border, including aerial surveillance.

Full report at:




Three police reservists abducted in Wajir by suspected Al-Shabaab militants

By Amina Wako

June 16th, 2019

Suspected Al-Shabaab militants on Wednesday night abducted Three National Police Reservists in Wajir.

The three NPRs Noor Mohamed Adan, Mohamed Bushar Hussein and Mohat Salat Gedo are believed to have been taken across the border in the deep forests of Gedo region which has been an Al-Shabaab stronghold in recent years.

Sources have informed Nairobi News that the abuction happened after the militants stormed Konton centre and engaged the reservists in an exchange of fire before the latter ran out of ammunition.

During the attack, the militants got away with motorbike and a tuk tuk belonging to area chief’s brother.

Last week the National Intelligence Service warned that at least 40 militants had crossed over to Mandera and were planning to execute retaliatory attacks on Kenyan soil.

The militants are believed to be hiding in Lafey in Mandera County with a mission of carrying retaliatory attacks following the death of one of them last week at Dawaduba.


“We are aware of a plan to carry out a revenge attack but I dare them to come, we are ready for them,” Mr Jeremiah Kosiom, the Mandera County Police Commander said.

On Saturday seven Kenyan police officers were killed when their vehicle ran over explosive device during a patrol near the border with Somalia, police sources said.

Full report at:



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