Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 09:45
AAAWSAT AR Website
Cairo – Waleed Abdurrahman
Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, an Egyptian body which works to keep contemporary Muslims in touch with religious principles, said that 10 religious edicts released by the terror group ISIS are highly controversial.

For the time during Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan, the terror group outlawed keeping special calendars, allowing women outside homes during the day, decorating homes, and lighting incense.

“Hardliners and radical groups are the furthest away from the guidance and teachings of the prophet (pbuh) and his family. Prohet Mohammad, the messenger of Allah, taught values of compassion. He did not come to order us to kill or slaughter, nor to corrupt the earth,” a Dar al-Ifta source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Egyptian scholastic body is used as a global reference for Muslims looking for clarity on the “the right way,” the removal of doubts concerning religious and worldly life, and religious law for the new issues of contemporary life.

More so, the terror group has exempted fighters engaged in duty from fasting, releasing an edict which justified the exception by saying that fasting exhausts and strains combatants during battle.

Another fatwa prevented women from going out during daytime in Ramadan, so that their departure does not lead to sedition. Female Muslims, only when guided by a guardian, are allowed outside the confines of their houses after the intermittent fasting period is up.

Saying it aims to bolster devotion ahead of Eid El-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam’s lunar month of fasting, ISIS released another fatwa ordering the closure of all commercial shops 10 days ahead of the holiday. Its justification was that the closure of shops will help Muslims observe religious affairs more intently.

One of the more extreme ISIS fatwas was one which disclaimed the fasting of non-ISIS Muslims. This outrageously means that Muslim congregations living in ISIS-run neighborhoods could be subjected to punishment if found fasting during Ramadan.

(Persian) Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

Sunday, 28 April, 2019 – 08:45
General view of Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. (Reuters)
London – Mutlaq Muneer
The number of merger and acquisition deals (M&As) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grew 39 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2019, according to a report released by Kuwait Financial Center (MARKAZ) on Saturday.

The Saudi market topped the Arabian Gulf markets in terms of M&As in Q1-19, in which the sector witnessed Aramco’s 70 percent acquisition of SABIC in a deal worth USD69.1 billion.

In January, the Kuwait Finance House (KFH) said it gave initial approval for the average of stock exchange with AUB Bahrain at a rate of 2.33 shares of AUB’s in return for one share in KFH, added the report.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), listed on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), announced last month that its general assembly approved its merger with Union National Bank (UNB).

Italy’s Eni and Austria’s OMV will collectively acquire a 35 percent stake in ADNOC Refining for an estimated USD5.8 billion, whereby ADNOC will retain the remaining 65 percent stake in the company. KKR and BlackRock have acquired a 40 percent stake in ADNOC Oil Pipelines, an entity that will lease ADNOC’s interest in 18 pipelines for 23 years.

GCC acquirers accounted for 60 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 75 percent during Q4 2018. Foreign acquirers accounted for 34 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 17 percent during Q4 2018. Buyer information was not available for 6 percent of the transactions in Q1 2019.

Each of the GCC acquirers seemed to have a different appetite with regards to M&A transactions during Q1 2019.

Kuwaiti acquirers preferred investing in their home country. Saudi acquirers mostly invested in their home country and equally between other GCC countries and outside the GCC. UAE acquirers mostly invested outside the GCC and within their home country. Bahraini acquirers only invested outside the GCC. Qatari and Omani acquirers each engaged in one acquisition in their respective countries.

Q1 2019 witnessed a 70 percent increase in the number of completed transactions by foreign buyers compared to Q1 2018. In comparison to Q4 2018, the number of such transactions grew by 89 percent.

UAE targets represented 71 percent of the closed transactions by foreign acquirers during Q1 2019, while Saudi Arabia and Kuwait represented 23 percent and 6 percent respectively of the transactions during the same period. Bahraini, Omani and Qatari targets did not attract any foreign buyers during Q1 2019.

As per MARKAZ’s report, the industrial, financial and consumer sectors in the GCC accounted for 62 percent of M&As in the region during the first three months of 2019.

The media, insurance, telecommunication services and aviation sectors each accounted for 2 percent of the total closed transactions during Q1 2019, collectively amounting to 8 percent of the transactions during the period.

There was a total of 14 announced transactions in the pipeline during Q1 2019, representing a 27 percent increase in the number of announced transactions compared to Q4 2018.

UAE and Saudi Arabia collectively accounted for 79 percent of the announced transactions during Q1 2019. Oman and Qatar made up 21 percent of the announced transactions.

Citing ‘high, concrete’ terror threat, Israel tells citizens to leave Sri Lanka

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Citing ‘high, concrete’ terror threat, Israel tells citizens to leave Sri Lanka

Four days after Easter suicide bombings killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, Counter-Terrorism Bureau tells Israelis to come home, cancel planned trips

Security personnel stand guard in front of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 23, 2019, two days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

Security personnel stand guard in front of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo on April 23, 2019, two days after a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

The Israel National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Thursday issued a warning for travel to Sri Lanka, saying there was a “high and concrete” chance of a terror attack, four days after the Easter Sunday suicide bombing attacks that killed more than 350 people in and around the capital of Colombo.

The agency said Israeli travelers should leave the island as soon as possible, and those planning to visit were advised to cancel their trips.

The announcement means the country now bears the security agency’s second-highest warning. The decision to issue the warning was made after consultations with security officials and the Foreign Ministry.

On Thursday, Sri Lankan authorities banned drones and unmanned aircraft and continued to set off controlled detonations of suspicious items. Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority said that it was taking the aircraft measure “in view of the existing security situation in the country.”

A priest conducts a mass burial for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Hobby drones have been used by attackers in the past to carry explosives. Iraqi forces found them difficult to shoot down while driving out the Islamic State group, whose members loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target government forces. And Yemen’s Houthi rebels has used drones, most recently to target a military parade in January, killing troops.

Sri Lankan police continued their search for explosives, detonating a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Colombo.

The attacks Easter Sunday mainly at churches and hotels killed at least 359 people and wounded 500 more, the government said Wednesday. Most were Sri Lankan but the Foreign Ministry has confirmed 36 foreigners died. The remains of 13 have been repatriated. Fourteen foreigners are unaccounted for, and 12 were still being treated for injuries in Colombo hospitals.

Sri Lankan security personnel walk next to dead bodies on the floor amid blast debris at St. Anthony’s Shrine following an explosion in the church in Colombo on April 21, 2019. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

A top Sri Lankan official has said that many of the suicide bombers were highly educated and came from well-off families.

Junior defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene said at least one had a law degree and others may have studied in the UK and Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said one of the bombers had been in the country on a student visa with a spouse and child before leaving in 2013.

A British security official also confirmed one bomber is believed to have studied in the UK between 2006 and 2007. The security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, said British intelligence had not been watching Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed during his stay in the country. His name was first reported by Sky News.

A photo published on the Islamic State terror groups propaganda outlet, the Amaq agency, on April 23, 2019, showing what the group says is eight bombers who carried out the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka. (Amaq)

Sri Lankan government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible terror attacks against churches or other targets weeks before the bombings. The president asked for the resignations of the defense secretary and national police chief without saying who would replace them.

Sri Lankan authorities have blamed a local extremist group, National Towheed Jamaat, whose leader, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, became known to Muslim leaders three years ago for his incendiary online speeches. On Wednesday, junior defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the attackers had broken away from National Towheed Jamaat and another group, which he identified only as “JMI.”

Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it explodes when police tried to defuse a bomb near St. Anthony’s Shrine as priests look on in Colombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. (Jewel SAMAD / AFP)

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Authorities remain unsure of the group’s involvement, though authorities are investigating whether foreign militants advised, funded or guided the local bombers.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara has said 58 suspects have been detained since the bombings.

READ MORE:

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

Image caption Israel has established more than 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday and Mr Netanyahu is competing for votes with right-wing parties who support annexing part of the West Bank.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Last month the US recognised the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, as Israeli territory.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements make a future independent state impossible.

Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks. It says settlements are not a genuine obstacle to peace and are negotiable.

What exactly did Netanyahu say?

He was asked during an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank.

“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage,” he said.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters: “Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”

Presentational grey line

Potentially explosive comments

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

These comments by Benjamin Netanyahu are potentially explosive over an issue that has helped stall peace efforts for years.

They will resonate with several parties with which he’ll try to form a coalition government if he wins the biggest share of votes.

But the very idea of annexation will rouse new Palestinian fury, as well as international condemnation.

Mr Netanyahu may have been emboldened by the Trump administration, which just last month recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Presentational grey line

What is the political background?

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a tight race with the new centre-right Blue and White alliance.

However other parties, some of which support annexation, could end up being kingmakers when they try to form a governing coalition.

In Mr Netanyahu’s own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

What is the situation of peace negotiations?

Mr Trump’s administration is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which US officials say will be fair.

However the Trump administration has carried out a series of actions that have inflamed Palestinian opinion and generally pleased Israel.

In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

In response Mr Abbas cut off relations with the US, saying the US could no longer be a peace broker.

Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa), which has been looking after Palestinian refugees since 1949.

In March President Trump officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.

We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

We’re Cracking Apart From The Inside, With Missiles Aimed At Our Back

 

I’m sorry, but I don’t exactly like the Title either. Here in our Country we are acting like it is back in the 20’s or something ignorant like that. We have our HollyWood and our Politics, the never-ending battle between the Dems and the GOP and we pick Our Country apart. We have several outside State Players and other well-funded hate groups who are actually in the Chess Possession to make this play. Folks, I hope they do not push the ‘ignite’ button. This would be the end of the world as we all know it all because of a couple of dozen people from around whom have some Power in this world who hate us and hate everything’ the West’ stands for. Attacking us from the inside while we bicker among ourselves is a sure Cancer to our Cells.

 

Our current Government has weakened Us with our long-standing Allies and gotten off to a bad start with several other ‘not so friendly States.’ There is always the issue of other ‘unfriendliness’ such as Hezbollah, Hamas and many others. I pray for our Children, and Theirs. Hate, it is such a disgusting thing when we direct it at each other. Our System has many errors within it but it could be very much better. We need to address these things quickly before there is no tomorrow in which to be concerned about.

 

 

 

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

 

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 10:45
French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey warned France that it is pointless to maintain its military presence in Syria to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters according to state news agency Anadolu.

Cavusoglu hit out at France’s “support” of the YPG, which he said was “no secret”, pointing to a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron had held on Friday with the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF).

The YPG serves as the military backbone of the SDF.

Turkey views the YPG as terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

France is part of the international anti-terrorism coalition led by the US in Syria and Iraq. It dispatched military pilots and artillery soldiers to carry out bombings. Several sources also reported the deployment of French special forces in Syrian territory, but Paris has not confirmed this information.

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 US ground forces that had been in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the SDF.

The shock move put allies on the backfoot, with Macron on Sunday saying: “An ally must be reliable”.

On Sunday, Macron avoided commenting on the demands made by two representatives of the “Syrian Democratic Council” after Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

He summed up by the situation by announcing Paris “regrets” the US decision, given that the mission to terminate ISIS was not over yet, adding that the SDF should not be abandoned and allies should not be “left in the middle of the road.”

France confirmed it will remain in the alliance despite the US withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will intervene in the coming months against ISIS and the YPG.

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

Embedded video

Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

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Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

Embedded video

Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

20 people are talking about this

SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

Embedded video

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News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

READ MORE:

Trump slanders Khashoggi and betrays American values

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Trump slanders Khashoggi and betrays American values


President Trump speaks to the media before leaving the White House in Washington on Nov. 20. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

November 20 at 5:03 PM

PRESIDENT TRUMP on Tuesday confirmed what his administration has been signaling all along: It will stand behind Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman even if he ordered the brutal murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a crude statement punctuated with exclamation points, Mr. Trump sidestepped a CIA finding that the crown prince was behind the killing; casually slandered Mr. Khashoggi, who was one of the Arab world’s most distinguished journalists; and repeated gross falsehoods and exaggerations about the benefits of the U.S. alliance with the kingdom. Mr. Trump has betrayed American values in service to what already was a bad bet on the 33-year-old prince.
As with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump is justifying his affinity for a brutal and reckless leader by disregarding the findings of the U.S. intelligence community. The Post reported Friday that the CIA has concluded with “high confidence” — a rating it does not apply lightly — that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, who while living in self-imposed exile in Virginia, wrote columns for The Post that were moderately critical of the crown prince.
Mr. Trump’s response is to grudgingly acknowledge that “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event” before adding “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” He declares the truth unknowable and thus irrelevant: “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder.”
In fact, the truth about Mr. Khashoggi’s death is not only knowable but largely known. Audio recordings in the CIA’s possession record his actual killing as well as phone calls from the hit team to Mohammed bin Salman’s close aides. Five members of the team have been identified as probable members of the crown prince’s personal security team.
While discounting these facts, Mr. Trump bases his continued backing for the regime on false claims, including his thoroughly debunked boast that Saudi Arabia will “spend and invest $450 billion” in the United States. He says the kingdom has “been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels,” though Riyadh is reportedly preparing to cut production to raise prices.
Worst of all, Mr. Trump libels Mr. Khashoggi, saying that “representatives of Saudi Arabia” had called him an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The crown prince did make those allegations in a phone call to the White House — but the regime itself was so embarrassed when The Post reported on the call that it denied making them. Mr. Khashoggi’s family has confirmed that he was not a member of the Brotherhood.
Mr. Trump concluded his statement by inviting Congress “to go in a different direction.” As in the Russia case, it must do so. Bipartisan legislation mandating sanctions for all those implicated in Mr. Khashoggi’s death is pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) last week gave us a statement indicating he wanted to know “what more would be done” by the administration before Congress responded. Now he knows. If Mohammed bin Salman is to be held accountable, as Mr. Corker said he must, the committee must act. The alternative is a world where dictators know they can murder their critics and suffer no consequences.

Four highly-trained snipers active in Kashmir

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Four highly-trained snipers active in Kashmir, believe security agencies

Sniper attacks by Jaish-e-Mohammed militants have emerged as a new source of worry for security agencies in Kashmir with three personnel having been killed since mid-September, prompting agencies to re-calibrate their strategy to thwart such strikes, officials said.

INDIA Updated: Oct 28, 2018 23:51 IST

sniper,Kashmir,Jaish-e-Mohammed
Based on intelligence inputs, security agencies believe that at least two separate ‘buddy’ groups of the Jaish-e-Mohammed comprising two terrorists each have entered Kashmir Valley in early September.(AP/Picture for representation)

Sniper attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists has emerged as a new source of worry for security agencies in Kashmir Valley with three personnel having been killed since mid-September, prompting law enforcement agencies to re-calibrate their strategy to thwart such strikes by the Pakistan-based group, officials said.

The first such attack took place at Newa in Pulwama on September 18 when a CRPF personnel was injured. Security officials thought it to be a one-off strike till the recent spate of sniper attacks that claimed the lives of a Sashastra Seema Bal jawan and an Army personnel in Tral, and a CISF jawan in Nowgam.

Based on intelligence inputs, security agencies believe that at least two separate ‘buddy’ groups of the proscribed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) comprising two terrorists each have entered Kashmir Valley in early September and have entrenched themselves in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district with the help of some overground supporters of the outfit.

These terrorists, according to officials, have been thoroughly trained by Pakistan’s external snooping agency ISI for carrying out sniper attacks in Kashmir Valley and have been armed with M-4 carbines, used by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

There is a possibility that these weapons may be part of the arms and ammunition captured by the Taliban, with whom the JeM cadre were fighting the allied forces in Afghanistan, security officials in the state said. However, they said that the weapon was also being used by the special forces of Pakistan Army.

In all the instances of sniper attacks, the terrorists used a nearby hillock to carry out strikes on a security force campus when unsuspecting jawans were using their mobile phones to talk to their family or friends. “These attacks have been precise, even while targeting a personnel inside a sentry post as he uses his mobile phone. They pick up the light of the mobile phone to carry out the attack on jawans,” said one of the officials.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has reacted to the rising cases of sniper attacks. “We’ve dealt with snipers on the border/LoC regularly and have SOPs to deal with those but never in the hinterland. This will force a rethink of all manner of security and protection procedures.”

The M-4 carbine is mounted with a telescope and the terrorists are using night vision devices to locate their potential targets, the officials said. The weapon can fire at its target up to 500-600 metres with precision.

The security agencies, including army, CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir police, have already issued fresh guidelines to their jawans and officers located in camps in the militancy-hit areas. Maintaining a silence over the change in tactics, the officials said that more combing operations would be carried out around the security camps.

They said that Jaish cadres were likely to carry out more such attacks in the future, but added that some modules had been identified and these cases were likely to be cracked soon.

The security agencies had been observing that while pushing the terrorists into Kashmir Valley from the Line of Control (LoC), ISI meticulously planned to send in Jaish-e-Mohammed cadre along.

Those terrorists were armed with the best possible arsenal including bullets with steel core – with the capability to pierce a static bullet proof bunker used during counter-terrorism operations, the officials said.

The first such incident was noticed on the New Year eve when JeM terrorists had carried out a suicide attack on a CRPF camp in Lethpora in South Kashmir. Five personnel of the para-military force were killed in the attack and one of them was hit by a bullet fatally despite using a static bullet-proof shield provided by the Army, officials said.

A thorough inquiry into the attack showed that the bullet fired by the terrorist from the assault AK rifle was of steel core with the capability of piercing through the static bunkers used by security personnel during encounters with terrorists.

Generally, the AK bullets used in the armoury have a lead core covered with mild steel which cannot penetrate a bullet proof shield but after the December 31, 2017 encounter and subsequent findings, the rules of the proxy-war changed, the officials said.

A detailed analysis of the previous suicide attacks was carried out during which ballistic analysis of the terror attack on district police lines of Pulwama in South Kashmir in last August showed that ‘steel core’ bullets had been used by the terrorists in that encounter with security personnel. Eight security personnel had lost their lives in the terror strike.

The ammunition, according to the officials, is being modified from across the border with the help of Chinese technology of encasing the bullet with hard steel core. At the United Nations, India has been seeking a ban the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group and designation of its chief Maulana Masood Azhar as global terrorist, but its efforts have been blocked by China four times so far.

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 18:26 IST

Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Used to Hearing ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ a Historic Jewish Enclave Rings Out With Gunshots

Image
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, prayed not far from the Tree of Life Synagogue.CreditCreditJeff Swensen/Getty Images

PITTSBURGH — Saturday morning in Squirrel Hill has for more than 100 years meant certain familiar rituals. The handing out of prayer books as latecomers quietly arrive at temple, the genial shouts of ‘Shabbat shalom’ across neighborhood streets as friends spot old friends after services.

This is the heart of Jewish Pittsburgh, one of the most deeply rooted Jewish neighborhoods in America. And on this Saturday morning, it was the site of what one of the city’s chief federal law enforcement officers called “the most horrific crime scene I have seen.”

Tree of Life, an understated temple on a rising street of tidy brick houses and pumpkin-decorated front porches, was a revered and historic Jewish institution in a neighborhood full of them.

After Saturday’s massacre, this meant a grief deep and wide. Everyone knew someone, or someone who did. The Jewish Community Center, a few blocks away from Tree of Life, became a command post of sorts, with grief counselors, law enforcement officials, Red Cross volunteers, extended families, members of various synagogues and food, lots and lots of food.

Down the street from the temple, a woman who belonged to Tree of Life was sobbing, surrounded by other women. A SWAT truck pulled down the street.

“It definitely brought everybody together in the way that really awful things do,” said Jess Nock, 38, a lawyer who has worshiped at Tree of Life for eight years.

[A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue where three congregations worshiped.]

She spent the morning at the center, where information was difficult to follow. People arrived looking for others — sometimes successfully, sometimes not. One family learned of the shooting from their son, who was in Israel and saw it on the news. Some Orthodox Jews in the community, who do not use phones on the Sabbath, would surely not know about it for hours.

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Law enforcement officers secured the scene at the Pittsburgh temple.CreditAlexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

“Every time somebody would say “Do you know where…” Ms. Nock trailed off. She had heard the worst about at least one member. But she did not know what had happened to many others.

Squirrel Hill is an old neighborhood, beginning as the quiet and leafy retreat of the better-off, who chose to take the trolley home after work and leave the smog-choked streets of downtown Pittsburgh. Prosperous German Jews followed, moving their temples with them and creating a vibrant culture that, unlike in so many other American cities, never decamped for the suburbs.

“It’s one of the only Jewish communities in the country that has stayed within the city,” said Barbara S. Burstin, a history professor who has written several books on Jewish Pittsburgh.

There are kosher bakeries and delis along Murray Avenue, and three Jewish day schools of different denominations. On Saturday mornings, Orthodox men in black hats and overcoats walk the sidewalks. More than a dozen temples — Reform, Orthodox and Conservative — dot the neighborhood, “all bumping up within a few blocks of each other,” Professor Burstin said.

[Read more about the shooting suspect, who frequently reposted anti-Semitic content on social media.]

The population of the neighborhood might not be majority Jewish anymore — there are more Asian restaurants along the main drag now than Jewish ones — but it is home to more than a quarter of all Pittsburgh area Jewish households, according to a 2017 report.

The Tree of Life congregation, originally formed in 1864, moved to Squirrel Hill in 1952. It thrived in the heyday of American Conservative Judaism, but like many houses of worship in big cities, it has seen its membership dwindle.

In recent years, to make better use of the space, two other synagogues were invited to worship at the building. Now all three do, in different rooms on Saturdays, all getting together in the atrium afterward.

A former rabbi at Tree of Life, Chuck Diamond, suspected that perhaps 25 or 30 people would have been there at the start of services, when the shooting broke out. Others would have arrived later, entering easily.

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People attended an interfaith vigil in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Credit Jared Wickerham for The New York Times

“It’s not the type of place where you’re going to walk in and people are going to look at you and say ‘Wait, I don’t know you,’” Ms. Nock said. “And locked doors: no way. There’s nothing less welcoming than inviting people to a door that’s locked.”

That the killer chose Tree of Life has baffled many in the community. There are much bigger temples in the area, and others with more visible congregations.

“This is not an obvious target in the Jewish community,” said Richard Brean, a retired general counsel for the steelworkers’ union and a lifelong resident of Squirrel Hill.

[From a Texas church to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, houses of worship have become sites of mass shootings.]

But the members of Tree of Life had prepared for the possibility of violence, if only in theory, in the way so many schools and workplaces have in recent years. A year and a half ago, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh hired a former F.B.I. officer to serve as a security director; he had trained dozens of organizations on how to plan for active shooters. The members of Tree of Life had developed such a protocol last year.

Anti-Semitic incidents had happened in the neighborhood before, recalled Shlomo Perelman, 68, who was walking down a street not far from Tree of Life not long after the shooting. Mr. Perelman recalled a rabbinical student being shot some 25 years ago.

But this was not about Squirrel Hill. It was about the country that surrounded it. “It’s not about the neighborhood,” said Mr. Perelman. He added, “The times are really changing.”

On Saturday night, several hundred people gathered for a candlelight vigil in a light rain at the intersection of Murray and Forbes Avenue, where nearby restaurants — a Turkish kebab house, a ramen bar and a bohemian tea cafe — were a testament to the area’s diversity.

“I am a different Jew today than I was yesterday,” said Sophia Levin, 15, one of several teenagers who spoke. “Anti-Semitism was something that happened in history, that happened in other places,” she said, her voice breaking.

“Tree of Life used to be just a synagogue that my grandparents went to, that my Mom grew up in, that we would go to on high holidays,” she said. “And today I feel like it’s something different.”

Trip Gabriel contributed from Pittsburgh.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Torrent of Gunshots Shifts Reality: ‘I Am a Different Jew Today’ . Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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