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Egypt mourns 305 victims of Sinai mosque attack

CAIRO (AFP): Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to respond forcefully after attackers martyred at least 305 worshippers in a packed mosque in restive North Sinai province, the country´s deadliest attack in recent memory.

Al-Sisi declared three days of mourning would begin Saturday, the day after the gun and bomb assault on the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish.

In a televised speech the president pledged to “respond with brutal force”, adding that “the army and police will avenge our martyrs and return security and stability with force in the coming short period”.

Several hours later Egyptian air force jets destroyed vehicles used in the attack and “terrorist” locations where weapons and ammunition were stocked, an army spokesman said.

Witnesses said assailants had surrounded the mosque with all-terrain vehicles and detonated a bomb. They then mowed down panicked worshippers as they tried to flee and used congregants´ vehicles they had set alight to block routes to the mosque.

The state prosecutor´s office said in a statement that 305 people were killed and 128 wounded in the assault on the mosque roughly 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish. AFP photographs of the scene indicated that children were among the dead.

World leaders condemned the attack. US President Donald Trump condemned on Twitter the “horrible and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent and defenceless worshippers”.

The grand imam of Cairo´s Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, condemned “in the strongest terms this barbaric terrorist attack”.

Daesh targeting of Sufis

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bloodshed.

The Daesh group´s Egypt branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, and also civilians accused of working with the authorities, in attacks in the north of the Sinai peninsula.

They have also targeted followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Islam as well as Christians.

A tribal leader and head of a Bedouin militia that fights Daesh told AFP that the mosque is known as a place where Sufis gather.

The Daesh group shares the puritan Salafi view that Sufis are heretics for seeking the intercession of saints.

The militants had previously kidnapped and beheaded an elderly Sufi leader, accusing him of practising magic, and abducted Sufi practitioners later released after “repenting”.

The group has killed more than 100 Christians in church bombings and shootings in Sinai and other parts of Egypt, forcing many to flee the peninsula.

The military has struggled to quell militants who pledged allegiance to Daesh in November 2014.

The militants have since increasingly turned to civilian targets, attacking not only Christians and Sufis but also Bedouin Sinai inhabitants accused of working with the army.

The Gaza Strip´s border crossing with Egypt that had been due to reopen Saturday will remain closed until further notice because of the attack, a Palestinian official said.

Aside from Daesh, Egypt also faces a threat from Al-Qaeda-aligned militants who operate out of neighbouring Libya.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Islam — Supporters of Islam in Arabic — claimed an October ambush in Egypt´s Western Desert that killed at least 16 policemen.

Many of those killed belonged to the interior ministry´s secretive National Security Service.

The military later conducted air strikes on the attackers, killing their leader Emad al-Din Abdel Hamid, a most wanted militant who was a military officer before joining an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Libya´s militant stronghold of Derna.

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US calls on Pakistan to arrest recently released Hafiz Saeed

WASHINGTON (Reuters): A US official on Friday said Washington is “deeply concerned” at the release from house arrest of Hafiz Saeed who is accused of masterminding the 2008 assault in the Indian city of Mumbai.

Hafiz Saeed, who had been under house arrest since January, was ordered freed by the Lahore High Court this week.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Saeed’s organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including American citizens.

“The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” Nauert said in a statement.

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Three killed, nine injured in Train accident in northern India

Monitoring Desk

NEW DELHI: At least three persons were killed and nine others were injured when thirteen coaches of an express train derailed in northern India early Friday.

As per the Indian media the incident happened because of thick fog in the area when Vasco Da Gama Express flipped off the tracks after leaving Manikpur station in Uttar Pradesh state and was heading for the Bihar state.

Local police Chief, Pratap Gopendra Singh told Indian media that three passengers were killed including a six years old boy and nine others are injured.

He added that incident was happened because the region wore a blanket of fog and it creating problems in the rescue operations.

Traffic on the main rail link was disrupted for several hours. The accident is the latest disaster to hit India’s creaking railways.

The incident happened on the first anniversary of a derailment in the same state in which 146 people died.



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Mushahid elected Vice President of APA in Istanbul

F.P. Report

ISTANBUL: 33 parliaments of Asia, at the annual meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA here in the historic Turkish city, unanimously elected Senator Mushahid Hussain as the Vice President of APA in charge of Political Affairs Committee and decided that Pakistan will be the next President of APA for 2 years requesting the Senate of Pakistan to host the APA during 2020-21.

Thanking the Parliamentary leaders of Asia, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that ‘Pakistan will continue to play a leadership role in the quest for an Asian Parliament’ adding ‘among our founding fathers, the great poet Allama Iqbal had predicted the resurgence of Asia and the rise of China in his poetry over 80 years back’. He also presented the report of the Special Committee on the Asian Parliament which is established by the Senate of Pakistan, under APA mandate.

In his speech to the APA plenary as leader of the Pakistan Delegation, Senator Mushahid Hussain said that ‘in accordance with the prediction of Allama Iqbal, the balance of economic and political power is shifting from the West to the East, and the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping is the single most important diplomatic and developmental vision in the 21st Century’.

Referring to the ‘Asian spirit of resilience of the people of Pakistan’, Senator Mushahid Hussain termed Pakistan as a ‘robust and resilient democracy’, saying that ‘Pakistan has hosted the largest refugee population for the longest period and Pakistan has also fought the longest and most successful inland war on terrorism, as the biggest victim of terrorism, suffering 70,000 casualties, soldiers and civilians’.

Senator Mushahid Hussain also met the Prime Minister of Turkey plus Speakers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan and invited all of them, on behalf of Speaker of National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, to the ‘Joint Meeting of Speakers of Parliament on Terrorism & Inter-Regional Connectivity’ in Islamabad on December 24-25, 2017.

Senator Mushahid Hussain was also requested by the Turkish hosts to Chair the plenary of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly.

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Schoolchildren in Spain choose to name park after Malala Yousafzai

MADRID (Monitoring Desk): A park in Spain has been named after education advocate and campaigner for girls rights Malala Yousafzai by schoolchildren.

According to a Spanish news network, the initiative started two years ago when teachers of a school realised there were no streets in the vicinity named after women. The school wrote to the city council asking for a space that could be named after a woman.

The school was granted a park as a space by the local council that also asked the teachers to choose a name for it. The schoolchildren chose to name the park Malala, in honour of the young Nobel Laureate from Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

The park named ‘Malala Makai’ is located next to a music school in Spain. It opened gates during a specialized ceremony as the move was deemed extremely important by the city mayor Antonio Cuellas, The News reported.

According to him, the acknowledgement and appreciation of Malala’s lifelong struggle for education in previously Taliban-ruled Swat is necessary in every part of the world.

Malala, an epitome of bravery, holds the title of youngest Nobel Laureate. She is also working currently as an ambassador of promoting education amongst Syrian girl refugees.

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Myanmar, Bangladesh sign deal for return of Rohingya people

YANGON (AFP): Myanmar and Bangladesh on Thursday signed an agreement on the return of displaced Rohingya people who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, according to a statement from Myanmar’s state counselor’s office.

The agreement was signed by U Kyaw Tint Swe, union minister for the Office of the State Counselor and Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Bangladeshi foreign affairs minister.

The agreement was based on a joint statement signed by the two countries in 1992 and contained the general guiding principles and policy arrangements to systematically verify and receive the displaced Rohingya people.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army extremist terrorists launched attacks on police outposts in Rakhine on Aug. 25, displacing residents from a number of areas in Maungtaw district to border areas with Bangladesh.

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Indian army officer arrested for journalist’s murder

NEW DELHI (AFP): Indian police have arrested a senior army officer for the murder of a journalist shot dead while investigating allegations of financial fraud against him.

Reporter Sudip Dutta Bhaumik was allegedly killed by a junior officer when he went to a paramilitary base in the northeastern state of Tripura on Tuesday to investigate a story.

Police said Tapan Debbarma, the commandant of the Second Tripura State Rifles, was arrested Wednesday on charges he ordered his bodyguard to shoot the reporter.

“He (Debbarma) was arrested yesterday and produced before the magistrate. He has been remanded to 10 days of police custody,” local police superintendent Pradeep Dey told AFP on Thursday.

“His security guard Nandu Reang was arrested on Tuesday itself.”

On Wednesday Bhaumik´s editor Subal Kumar Dey said the murder was linked to articles the reporter had written.

He was the third journalist to be killed in as many months in India and newspapers in Tripura on Thursday carried blank editorial pages in protest.

In September, a reporter in the state was lynched by a mob during clashes between police and warring political factions. His mutilated body was found the next day.

Also in September gunmen shot dead renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh in the southern city of Bangalore. No arrests have been made in her killing, but some believe she was targeted for her outspoken criticism of Hindu nationalism.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 41 reporters have been killed in India since the early 1990s, a figure that excludes the two latest deaths in Tripura.

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Palestine rises above Israel in FIFA ranking for first time

JERUSALEM (AFP): Palestine’s football team achieved its highest ranking in history Thursday, rising above Israel in the FIFA world rankings for the first time.

The head of the Palestinian football association labelled it a “historic achievement” as the team rose two spots to 82nd in FIFA’s new rankings, published Thursday.

Israel fell 16 places to 96th after a disappointing failed World Cup qualification campaign.

Palestine has recently won a series of games as they seek to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, including a 10-0 victory over Bhutan.

The announcement comes as the Palestinian football association has campaigned to encourage FIFA to take action against six Israeli clubs located in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the Palestinians had asked FIFA to take action against the Israeli FA.

Last month, FIFA decided it would not intervene in the matter, with the Palestinians accusing the body of bowing to Israeli pressure.

Palestinian FA boss Jibril Rajoub told AFP that Thursday the rankings rise was a “historic achievement” that came despite restrictions on football in the Palestinian territories imposed by Israeli occupation.

“With this classification, we have defeated the occupation’s measures and its daily harassment, from preventing the freedom of movement of athletes through to all measures that impede Palestinian sport,” he said.

The Israeli Football Association was not immediately available for comment.

Israel qualifies for tournaments with European teams, while Palestine are in the Asian qualifying groups.

Palestine was first recognised by FIFA in 1998.

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Latin America is world’s most violent region for women: UN

PANAMA CITY (AFP): Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region in the world for women, the United Nations said, highlighting Central America and Mexico as particularly dangerous.

In a report presented in Panama, UN Women and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) found assaults on women persisted in the region despite severe laws aimed at curbing the phenomenon.

“The issue of violence against women in Latin America is critical. It´s the most violent region in the world against women outside of conflict contexts,” Eugenia Piza-Lopez, head of UNDP´s gender mission in Latin America, told AFP.

The rate of sexual violence against women outside of relationships is the highest in the world in the region, and the second-highest for those who are in, or were in, a couple, the report stated.

Three of the 10 countries with the highest rates of rape of women and girls were in the Caribbean, it said.

Femicide — the killing of women — occurred on a “devastating scale” in Central America, it said, explaining that two out three women murdered died because of their gender.

“In some countries it has become a severe crisis. In the Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) and Mexico the problem of femicide and violence against women has reached epidemic levels, in many cases with links to organized crime,” Piza-Lopez said.

Central America´s Northern Triangle is considered the most dangerous area in the world outside war zones, mainly because of rampant gangs and drug cartels.

The UN report noted that 24 of the 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have laws against domestic violence, but only nine of them have passed legislation that tackles a range of forms of other violence against women in public or private.

It also said that 16 of the countries had femicide on the books, and a few punished newer types of crimes, such as cybercrime, political violence, or acid attacks.

Despite those advances, though, the “plague” of violence continues to be a threat to human rights, public health and public safety, it said.

The UN recommended strengthening institutions and policies in the region, and allocating resources to empower women. It also advised that “patriarchal” cultural norms that maintain gender inequality needed to be addressed.

The report added one third of women worldwide have been a victim of violence in their relationship or of sexual violence by people outside their relationship.

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Sins are main cause of cancer says Indian health minister

Monitoring Desk

NEW DELHI: Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Health Minister of Assam State of India has said that cancer is the divine justice and anyone who committed sins in the past will have to face the cancer disease.

This he said while addressing to rally and he added that people can also get diseases like cancer because of their parent’s sins.

The Indians showed their anger on the stupid comments from the state minister of health and demanded an apology from the masses.

Large number of cancer patients and their relatives rejected the minister’s statement and said that it is very shameful that a health minister said all this which shows the attitude of our society towards the cancer patients.

Meanwhile, State opposition party the All India United Democratic Front said Sarma given these statements trying to cover his face in these stupid statements as they were failed to control the diseases and provided health facilities to these ill-fated patients. The opposition parties demanded an apology from the minister.

According to the data of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) lack of awareness and testing means that only 12.5 per cent of patients come for treatment in the early stages of the disease.