ADEN, Yemen, May 18 -- Yemen's security forces managed to capture one of the most prominent al-Qaida leaders during an anti-terrorism operation launched on Saturday in the country's southwestern province of Taiz.
"An elite anti-terrorism security operation managed to capture one of the most dangerous al-Qaida leaders named Bilal Ali Wafi who is wanted as a global terrorist," officer Abdul-Basit Baher said. He added that the anti-terrorism security troops raided an old house in the western countryside of Taiz province and succeeded in capturing Wafi who refused to surrender himself and attempted to use children and women as human shields. A security member was injured during the shooting that erupted while attempting to capture Wafi in his hometown village, he added. Yemeni security authorities previously accused Wafi of masterminding a series of attacks and assassinations against the country's security and government officials. Wafi was operating as a prominent member of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and participated in a terrorist attack in 2012 against a military parade in capital Sanaa, killing more than 100 soldiers and injuring nearly 300 others, Yemeni authorities said.
In October 2017, the United States and other Gulf countries designated 11 Yemenis including Wafi as terrorists who were wanted by security authorities. The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch AQAP, which mostly operates in eastern and southern provinces, has been responsible for many attacks against security forces in the country. The provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have also been the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between the United Arab Emirates-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time. The AQAP, seen by the U.S. as the global terror network's most dangerous branch, has exploited years of deadly conflicts between Yemen's government and Houthi rebels to expand its presence, especially in the southern and southeastern provinces. Enditem
VIENNA, May 16 -- Austrian MPs on Wednesday approved a law aimed at the banning of the headscarf in primary schools, a measure proposed by the ruling right-wing government.
To avoid charges that the law discriminates against Muslims, the text refers to any "ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head". However, representatives of both parts of the governing coalition, the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), have made it clear that the law is targeted at the Muslim headscarf. FPOe education spokesman Wendelin Moelzer said the law was "a signal against political Islam" while OeVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from "subjugation". The government says the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish kippa would not be affected. Austria's official Muslim community organisation IGGOe has previously condemned the proposals as "shameless" and a "diversionary tactic". The IGGOe said that in any case only a "minuscule number" of girls would be affected. Almost the entire opposition voted against the measure, with some MPs accusing the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.
The government admits that the law is likely to be challenged at Austria's constitutional court, either on grounds of religious discrimination or because similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs. The OeVP and FPOe formed a coalition in late 2017 after elections in which both parties took a tough anti-immigration stance and warned of the dangers of so-called "parallel societies".
LONDON, May 12 -- Investigations show how cash, legal support and millions of tweets underpin anti-Islam activist - but Facebook removes his ‘donate’ button.
The British far-right activist Tommy Robinson is receiving financial, political and moral support from a broad array of non-British groups and individuals, including US thinktanks, rightwing Australians and Russian trolls, a Guardian investigation has discovered. Robinson, an anti-Islam campaigner who is leading a “Brexit betrayal” march in London on Sunday, has received funding from a US tech billionaire and a thinktank based in Philadelphia. Two other US thinktanks, part-funded by some of the biggest names in rightwing funding, have published a succession of articles in support of Robinson, who has become a cause célèbre among the American far right since he was jailed in May for two months. His imprisonment on contempt of court charges prompted a vigorous international Twitter campaign, with 2.2m tweets being posted using the hashtag #freetommy between May and October. An analysis conducted for the Guardian by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that more than 40% of the tweets came from the US, 30% from the UK and other significant volumes from Canada, the Netherlands and nine other countries.
A separate study of about 600 Twitter accounts, believed to be directly tied to the Russian government or closely aligned with its propaganda, found significant numbers had tweeted prolifically in Robinson’s defence. On Facebook, Robinson has more than 1 million followers from at least a dozen countries outside the UK, including the US, Australia, Sweden and Norway. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been using Facebook donation tools designed for charities to raise funds for his activism for several months. He says he has raised several hundred thousand pounds via online donations, some of which were solicited via the Facebook donate button. Robinson has said he plans to use the money to launch a European version of the rightwing conspiracy website Infowars, and to sue the British government over his prison treatment. But the tool is meant for charities alone. When the Guardian alerted Facebook to this, the social media company switched off the function within hours.
The investigation has established that:
Horowitz, the co-founder of the DHFC, told the Guardian in an email: “Tommy Robinson is a courageous Englishman who has risked his life to expose the rape epidemic of young girls conducted by Muslim gangs and covered up by your shameful government.”
COLOMBO, May 7 -- Every suspect connected to the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday suicide bombings has either been arrested or killed, authorities said.
"All those terrorists directly involved in the bombings are either dead or under arrest," Sri Lanka's acting Inspector General of Police Chandana Wickramaratne said in a statement late Monday. The announcement comes two weeks after coordinated bomb attacks ripped through three hotels and three churches throughout the country, killing 257 people and injuring many. The National Thowheeth Jama'ath terrorist organization has been blamed for the attacks and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Wickramaratne said among the dead were two bomb experts linked to the attacks and police also uncovered explosives stashed to be used in future attacks. He also said life will slowly return to normal, adding that security measures were being beefed up at schools, the Sunday Times reported. "This is not because there is a direct threat on schools," he said. "But everyone must understand the manner in which security measures must be undertaken."
He also urged the public to disregard what they read on social media and rely directly on the security forces for information. Wickramaratne was appointed acting inspector general last week by President Maithripala Sirisena, who had demanded the resignation of Pujith Jayasundara, the former inspector general, for failing to uphold his duties by not thwarting the Easter Sunday bombings. Wickramaratne's Monday announcement follows the government having declared a state of emergency April 22 that allowed police and military forces to detain and question potential suspects without a court order. Meanwhile, Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake said the military has also increased national security measures under the emergency declaration while urging the public to return to their regular, daily activities.
COLOMBO, April 30 -- The first Sunday church services after a series of terror attacks will be held in Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches on May 5, Agence France-Presse (AFP) tweeted on Tuesday, citing a source.
The country’s authorities earlier recommended the island churches suspending religious services until security conditions are improved in the country. Last week the National Security Council cancelled lessons at Sri Lanka’s schools and universities until May 6. On April 21, the heaviest in the country’s history series of terror attacks occurred in Sri Lanka. Eight explosions shook the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, in particular in Catholic churches during Easter services and in hotels. It was earlier reported that 359 people were killed in the attacks, but it later emerged that physicians set these figures too high by mistake. According to latest information, about 250 people were killed in the terror attacks.
BRUSSELS, April 28 -- The European Union granted more than 330,400 people asylum in 2018, according to the annual figures provided by the European statistics bureau Eurostat.
30% of those asylum seekers were Syrian. The amount of asylum seekers accepted dropped by 40% compared to 2017 (533,000). The majority of those granted asylum within the EU were Syrians (96,100 people, 29% of the total number of people granted asylum by EU member states), followed by Afghans (53,500, 16%), and Iraqis (24,600, 7%). Syrians were the biggest group to be granted asylum in 16 member states last year. Nearly 70% (67,000) of the 96,100 Syrians granted asylum within the EU went to Germany.
Germany accepted the largest number of asylum seekers (139,600, 40%) in 2018, followed by Italy (47,900) and France (41,400). 163,800 of those granted asylum in the EU received refugee status (49%), 100,300 got subsidiary protection (30%) and 69,300 (21%) were given a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. 10,250 immigrants were granted asylum by Belgium: 8,340 were given refugee status and 1,910 were granted subsidiary protection.
BEIRUT, April 26 -- The U.S.-backed assault to drive Islamic State from its Syrian capital Raqqa in 2017 killed more than 1,600 civilians, 10 times the toll the coalition itself has acknowledged, Amnesty International and the monitoring group Airwars reported.
Amnesty and Airwars, a London-based group set up in 2014 to monitor the impact of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State, spent 18 months researching civilian deaths including two months on the ground in Raqqa, they said. “Our conclusive finding after all this is that the U.S.-led coalition’s military offensive (US, UK and French forces) directly caused more than 1,600 civilian deaths in Raqqa,” they said. They said the cases they had documented probably amounted to violations of international humanitarian law and called for coalition members to create a fund to compensate victims and their families. The coalition has previously said it takes great care to avoid civilian casualties and that it investigates accusations that it has done so.
Islamic State seized Raqqa in early 2014 during its lightning advance through Syria and Iraq in which it built a self-proclaimed caliphate characterized by summary executions of opponents. Its mass killing and enslavement of minorities was described as genocide by the United Nations. The group, which controlled a third of both Syria and Iraq in 2014, has since been driven from all the territory it controlled by military campaigns waged by an array of enemies including the Syrian and Iraqi governments, the United States, its European allies and their rivals Russia and Iran. It was defeated by U.S.-backed fighters in its last Syrian stronghold this year. Despite no longer controlling territory, it is still seen as a threat to launch attacks around the world. An international coalition led by Washington has given military support to both the Iraqi government and a Syrian militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF captured Raqqa in October 2017 after a five month offensive backed by U.S.-led air strikes and special forces. Amnesty said last year that there was evidence coalition air and artillery strikes in Raqqa had broken international law by endangering the lives of civilians, but until now had not given an estimate of the death toll during the battle. Reuters reporters in Raqqa during and after the campaign said that bombardment had caused massive destruction in the city, laying waste to entire districts.
COLOMBO, April 22 -- The string of deadly blasts that hit Sri Lanka on April 21 were carried out by at least seven suicide attackers, the Associated Press news agency reported on Monday, citing a Sri Lankan forensic service investigator.
According to the agency, the suicide attackers set off the explosions in six hotels and churches. Per latest reports, 24 people were detained on suspicion of being behind the terror attacks. On Sunday, Sri Lanka was rocked by eight blasts that happened almost simultaneously around 08:45 local time. The first explosion went off in the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade in Colombo, the second - in the St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, 30 km north of Colombo, the third bomb was detonated in a church in the town of Batticaloa in the east of the country. Apart from that, around the same time the explosions hit the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels in the Sri Lankan capital. The seventh blast happened in the Colombo zoo, while the eighth bomb exploded in the Dematagoda, a suburb in Colombo. The churches were holding Easter services. According to the latest reports, 290 people died in the bombings. Among those attending the services and staying in the hotels there were a lot of foreigners who had arrived in Sri Lanka as tourists to celebrate Easter in an exotic location.
COLOMBO, April 21 -- At least 52 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.
A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit. Another 10 people were confirmed dead in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country, where another church was targeted. There were also reports of casualties in a blast at a church north of the capital and the toll was expected to rise. The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed "many innocent people" and appeared to be a "well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy." The first explosions were reported at St Anthony's Shrine, a church in Colombo and St Sebastian's Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St Anthony's blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, "A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there," read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian's Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo. Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa. An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister's official residence in Colombo, said that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast. An official at the Batticaloa hospital said more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there. "Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway," Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account. He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony's Shrine and described "horrible scenes." "I saw many body parts strewn all over," he tweeted, adding that there were "many casualties including foreigners." "Please stay calm and indoors," he added.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified. Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
THE HAGUE, April 2 -- Party of the Unity politician Arnold van Doorn demands that the Dutch government opens a beach area which should be “halal”.
According to Van Doorn the Dutch beach needs to have a non-degenerative area for Muslims where people are not allowed to walk naked, since Muslims feel “unpleasant with scantily clad, ugly people”. Muslims don’t feel at home on most beaches, he says. “Not only Muslims, but also many other residents feel uncomfortable with the appearance of very scantily dressed and often anesthetically designed beachgoers”, he writes to the city council of The Hague.
“In addition, women in particular indicate that they are increasingly confronted with unwanted allusions and advances by people of the opposite sex during beach visits.” He believes that The Hague should therefore consider whether it is possible to designate part of the beach for Muslims. After all, there is also a nudist beach for a small group of enthusiasts, so why not design a part of the beach for the Muslim community, Van Doorn argues. Halal beach resorts already exist in seaside resorts in Turkey and Indonesia, among others. On halal beaches, Muslims could enjoy the sun according to their religious regulations. For example, men and women sunbathe separately on Lombok.
Van Doorn came to the Party for Freedom (Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam party) in 2010 in the city council of The Hague, and in 2013 – after coverting to Islam – he switched to the Islamic Party for Unity. In 2016 he received a work sentence for selling drugs to minors and the possession of a prohibited alarm gun. Halal refers to what is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law. In the Quran, the word halal is contrasted with haram (forbidden).