Saudi Islamic scholar arrested over Easter bombings in Sri Lanka

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Saudi scholar arrested over Easter bombings in Sri Lanka

Mohamed Aliyar, 60, is the founder of the Centre for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, a religious school and a library in Zahran’s hometown of Kattankudy, a Muslim-dominated city on Sri Lanka’s eastern shores.

WORLD Updated: May 13, 2019 10:46 IST

Reuters
Reuters
Kattakudy, Sri Lanka
The government says Zahran, a radical Tamil-speaking preacher, was a leader of the group.(AFP FILE/ Representative Image)

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested a Saudi-educated scholar for what they claim are links with Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombings, throwing a spotlight on the rising influence of Salafi-Wahhabi Islam on the island’s Muslims.

Mohamed Aliyar, 60, is the founder of the Centre for Islamic Guidance, which boasts a mosque, a religious school and a library in Zahran’s hometown of Kattankudy, a Muslim-dominated city on Sri Lanka’s eastern shores.

“Information has been revealed that the suspect arrested had a close relationship with … Zahran and had been operating financial transactions,” said a police statement late on Friday.

The statement said Aliyar was “involved” with training in the southern town of Hambantota for the group of suicide bombers who attacked hotels and churches on Easter, killing over 250 people.

A police spokesman declined to provide details on the accusations.

Calls to Aliyar and his associates went unanswered. Reuters was unable to find contact details for a lawyer.

The government says Zahran, a radical Tamil-speaking preacher, was a leader of the group.

Two Muslim community sources in Kattankudy told Reuters his hardline views were partly shaped by ultra-conservative Salafi-Wahhabi texts that he picked up at the Centre for Islamic Guidance’s library around 2-3 years ago. The sources are not affiliated with the centre.

“I used to always run into him at the centre, reading Saudi journals and literature,” said one of the sources.

During that time, Zahran started criticising the practice of asking God for help, for instance, arguing that such pleas were an affront to pure Islam.

“That kind of teaching was not in Sri Lanka in 2016, unless you read it in Salafi literature,” the source added, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions in Kattankudy.

Salafism, a puritanical interpretation of Islam that advocates a return to the values of the first three generations of Muslims and is closely linked to Wahhabism, has often been criticised as the ideology of radical Islamists worldwide.

Wahhabi Islam has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is backed by its rulers, although Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has committed the kingdom to a more moderate form of Islam.

Other than the fact that Zahran visited the centre, the sources in Kattankudy said they did not know of any personal ties between him and Aliyar.

Aliyar founded the centre in 1990, a year after he graduated from the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, in what one resident said marked a key moment in the spread of Salafi doctrine in Kattankudy. The centre was partly funded by Saudi and Kuwaiti donors, according to a plaque outside.

TROUBLEMAKER

Reuters spoke to three members of the centre’s board before Aliyar’s arrest. They asked to remain anonymous, citing security concerns amid a backlash against some Muslims.

They said Zahran was a troublemaker and that they had warned authorities about his extremist views. The members said they thought Zahran frequented the library around a decade ago, but had no recollection of him visiting recently and denied that any of its books were to blame for his views.

Funding for the center came from local donations, student fees, and private donors who were classmates of Aliyar’s in Riyadh, the centre’s sources said. Reuters was unable to immediately determine further details about the funding of the centre.

The Saudi government communications office in Riyadh did not respond to requests for comment on the funding of the centre.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh and Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

First Published: May 12, 2019 14:25 IST

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.

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

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

 

Australian-Lebanese Ordered Released in UAE Airliner Bomb Plot

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 10:45
Police walk outside the international terminal as they patrol Sydney Airport. AFP file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The lawyer of an Australian-Lebanese dual citizen on trial for an alleged plot to bring down an Emirati passenger plane said Saturday that her client has been ordered released on bail by a Lebanese military court.

Joceline Adib al-Rai, lawyer of Amer Khayat, said the court’s decision was delivered a day earlier. Prosecutors can appeal.

Khayat has rejected the charges.

Lebanese authorities have held Khayat in detention since 2017. They have accused him of planning to blow up an Etihad airline flight that was supposed to travel from Sydney to the United Arab Emirates.

Khaled and Mahmoud, two of Khayyat’s brothers, are on trial in Australia for plotting to blow up the plane with bombs hidden inside a Barbie doll and meat grinder.

Australian authorities say Amer Khayyat had no knowledge of his brothers’ plot.

Khaled’s sentence hearing has been set for July 26. The charges carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. The jury is still deliberating a verdict for Mahmoud.

Another brother was unaware that he was carrying a bomb, disguised as a meat mincer, in his luggage, as he tried to check in at the airport, Australian police have said.

UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

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

 

UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019 – 09:00
A man carries sacks of grain he received from a distribution center in Bajil, Yemen, December 13, 2018, 2018. (Reuters)
Hodeidah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has welcomed a $240 million contribution from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to support the food needs of vulnerable people in Yemen during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The generous contribution will greatly help Yemenis follow their practices and traditions during this important time,” WFP said in a statement.

“WFP plans to use this contribution to provide millions of families with monthly food rations of flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.”

On the other hand, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said Tuesday that it is a relief that the UN has finally been given the green light to use an existing corridor to gain access to the Red Sea Mills, adding that it is very positive that the parties have taken this step.

“Securing access to the Mills has been a long, difficult and frustrating process,” she said.

Grande also stressed the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that all humanitarian partners have free, unimpeded and immediate access to people who need and deserve assistance.

“Everyone knows we need the food in the Mills. It’s now a race against time to salvage supplies that can feed 3.7 million people for a month,” she added.

The WFP, for its part, announced that a technical team led by it has gained access to the Red Sea Mills on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah city as part of initial efforts to salvage a stock of 51,000 tons of wheat flour stored at the facility.

The Mills have been inaccessible for the last eight months due to intense fighting.

“The technical team will remain at the site to clean and service the milling equipment in preparation for the milling and eventual distribution of the wheat,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel explained.

“We will need to send more workers and technical experts to the mills in due course and send supplies to the team now working at the site.”

He noted that in order for works to continue, “ongoing safe access to the Mills, which lie close to sensitive frontline areas” is needed.

In March, the WFP distributed food to more than 10.6 million people in Yemen, the largest number ever reached in a single month.

“We are scaling up to support 12 million people in urgent need of food in the coming months. WFP Operations in Yemen are the biggest for WFP in the world,” the spokesperson added.

WFP explained on its official website that its Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla traveled to Yemen on a three-day mission.

He first traveled to Aden, where he met with the legitimate government of the country’s premier and other senior officials before heading to Sanaa, where he met UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and leaders from the Iran-backed Houthi militias, the statement said.

8 LNA Soldiers Killed In Attack In Southern Libya

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

 

8 LNA Fighters Killed in Attack in Southern Libya

Saturday, 4 May, 2019 – 10:30
Fighters from the Libyan National Army attend their graduation ceremony at a military academy in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi on April 18, 2019. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Eight fighters from Libyan National Army (LNA) were killed Saturday in an attack on their training camp in the southern city of Sebha, announced head of the local municipality Hamed al-Khaiyali.

A source from the LNA accused the ISIS terrorist group and Chadian opposition fighters of being behind the attack.

The LNA, commanded by Khalifa Haftar, had launched last month an operation against Tripoli to liberate it from terrorist gangs and militias loyal to the Government of National Accord.

Haftar’s forces have been marching steadily on the capital, with the LNA bringing in reinforcements in recent days.

Saudi Arabia Nominated For ICAO Membership

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

 

Saudi Arabia Nominated for ICAO Membership

Friday, 3 May, 2019 – 10:00
Arab Civil Aviation Organization extraordinary general assembly in Rabat. Asharq Al-Awsat
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) of Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that the Kingdom is among Arab states nominated for membership of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The voting results of the extraordinary general assembly of the Arab Civil Aviation Organization in Rabat showed that Saudi Arabia remained on the list of states seeking ICAO’s membership, GACA said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

The Kingdom’s delegation in Rabat was chaired by Transport Minister Assistant Abdulhadi bin Ahmed al-Mansouri who delivered a speech expressing Saudi Arabia’s pride in its vital role in the air transport industry.

Mansouri noted that the voting results assert the Kingdom’s remarkable and influential position in the region and the world, saying the Saudi political and economic role has made it among the top 20 influential countries in the global economy.

The statement said that during the Rabat meeting, it was agreed that the Kingdom would be among the nominees for ICAO’s membership given its huge contribution to international civil aviation, and technical and financial support to ICAO in order to achieve the organization’s strategic goals.

The importance of Arab cooperation in air transport lies in joint action to unify procedures and keep ongoing communication to meet the highest safety standards for this vital sector that is a key driver for the economy in the region, read the statement.

Further, this sector plays a significant role in the economies of states and has a direct impact on progress that governments seek to achieve.

Turkey Says Not Distancing Itself From NATO With S-400 Deal

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

 

Turkey Says Not Distancing Itself from NATO with S-400 Deal

Friday, 3 May, 2019 – 10:30
FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey is not distancing itself from the NATO alliance by buying Russian S-400 missile defense systems, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday, adding that Ankara should not be excluded from the F-35 jet project over the purchases.

Turkey and the United States, NATO allies, have been at odds over Ankara’s move to buy the Russian S-400s, which Washington says are not compatible with NATO systems and may threaten the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, of which Turkey is a prospective buyer and partner in production, Reuters reported.

In an interview with broadcaster NTV, Akar said that excluding Turkey from the F-35 project would put “very serious” burdens on the other partners in the project.

“There is no clause saying ‘you will be excluded if you buy S-400s’ in this partnership. Excluding us just because any one country wants so would not be in line with justice, laws or rights. This should not happen,” Akar said, according to Reuters.

He said Turkey was trying to explain to the United States and other partners in the F-35 project that the S-400s would not pose a threat to the jets, and added that Ankara had taken measures to prevent that.

In his strongest challenge yet to warnings that Turkey may be removed from the F-35 project, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the project would collapse if Turkey did not participate.

While Washington has warned of potential US sanctions if Ankara pushed on with the S-400 agreement, Turkey has said it would not back down from the deal.

Instead, Turkey has proposed to form a working group with the United States to assess the impact of the S-400s, but says it has not yet received a response from US officials.

Akar said on Friday Turkey was still evaluating the latest US offer to sell Raytheon Co. Patriot systems, which he said was more positive than Washington’s previous offers.

Iraq: Large-Scale Operation Against ISIS Remnants In Kirkuk

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

 

Large-Scale Operation against ISIS Remnants in Iraq’s Kirkuk

Thursday, 2 May, 2019 – 10:00
A military vehicle of the Iraqi security forces is pictured near the University of Anbar, in Anbar province July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Baghdad – Fadhel al-Nashmi
A commander in Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has confirmed that Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition warplanes have launched a military operation against ISIS remnants in Kirkuk province.

The commander, who refused to be identified, spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat a day after the US Central Command announced that two US Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.

He said that Wadi Ashai has a rugged terrain that ISIS militants can turn into hideouts.

The US Central Command said on Tuesday that the April 30 strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces, said the statement.

“The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the US Central Command area of operations on April 15,” it added.

A member of Kirkuk’s council told Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation against ISIS remnants is considered the largest since Iraq announced the organization’s defeat late 2017.

“At least 35 terrorists have been killed and more than 8 ISIS hideouts have been destroyed,” the source said.

“The operation was launched after Iraqi authorities received information that extremists have infiltrated into uninhabited areas in Hamrin Mountains and Wadi Ashai after escaping the battles in Syria,” the source added.

Iran And Turkey Refuse To Classify Muslim Brotherhood As A Terrorist Organization

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

 

Iran, Turkey Reject Trump’s Move to Classify Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization

Thursday, 2 May, 2019 – 10:30
US President Donald Trump meets with Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the White House in Washington, US, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Ankara – Cairo – Washington – Saeed Abdelrazek – Mohamed Nabil Helmy – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey and Iran on Wednesday criticized the United States over President Donald Trump’s attempt to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

Ankara has rejected the US move, which the White House confirmed on Wednesday, saying it would promote “anti-Islamism” in the West and around the world.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, for his part, accused Washington of supporting terrorism in the region, stressing that Tehran opposed the inclusion of the “Muslim Brotherhood” on the US list of “terrorist organizations.”

“The US is not in position to (..) start naming others as terror organizations and we reject by any attempt by the US in this regard,” Zarif was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The US is supporting the biggest terrorist in the region, that is Israel,” he added.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump “has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern and this designation is working its way through the internal process.”

According to Reuters, the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood on the US list allows sanctions to be imposed on those who have relations with the group, which is classified as terrorist in a number of Arab countries.

The US announcement comes three weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s visit to Washington. According to the New York Times, which revealed information about Trump’s attempt to classify the Muslim Brotherhood, the president’s initiative faces strong objections, especially within the Pentagon.

Egypt did not officially comment on the US move against the Muslim Brotherhood, but members of the parliamentary foreign relations committee welcomed it.

The Egyptian authorities have classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist entity since December 2013, in the wake of a booby-trapped car explosion against a security directorate in an Egypt province, which killed 16 people.

(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.