Islam in the News (September 2013)

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'Islam in the News' contains worldwide news concerning Islam and its followers. Further news covering the persecution of minorities, free speech, and some other issues can be found via the hub page


Contents

UK: 186 Muslim prisoners sue government after being served halal food contaminated with pork, claiming human rights were breached

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed that 186 inmates have launched legal cases in an attempt to win compensation over the error.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic law.

However, tests on halal sausage rolls, shepherd’s pies, steak and kidney pies and pasties served in three separate prisons were found to have contained pork.

It is feared that if the legal cases are successful, they could leave the way open for a flood of similar claims from other prisoners. There are 11,248 Muslims in prisons in England and Wales, accounting for 13.1 per cent of the jail population.

Ministers are expected to oppose the legal cases amid growing concerns over the compensation culture in jails.
. . .
The legal cases are being brought by the prisoners under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which affords the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The MoJ insisted that none of the 186 inmates has received legal aid to help them with their fight, but two prisoners have been awarded public money for a failed judicial review.

The contaminated meat products were discovered during investigations conducted during the horsemeat scandal earlier this year.

Halal sausage rolls served in HMP Sheppey Cluster, also known as Elmley prison, in Kent, were found to contain up to five per cent pork. The test results only emerged this week. Steak and kidney pies served in the same prison were also found to have contained 60-100 per cent pig meat.

Pork was also served in shepherd’s pie in HM Young Offender Institution Thorn Cross in Cheshire, while halal “beef and onion” pasties in HMP Verne on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, were also contaminated with pork.

The legal cases come amid fears of a growing compensation culture among prisoners...

Kenya: Gunmen used high-stakes game of 20 Questions to separate Muslims from non-Muslims during attack on Westgate mall

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

The turbaned gunmen who infiltrated Nairobi's Westgate mall arrived with a set of religious trivia questions: As terrified civilians hid in toilet stalls, behind mannequins, in ventilation shafts and underneath food court tables, the assailants began a high-stakes game of 20 Questions to separate Muslims from those they consider infidels.

A 14-year-old boy saved himself by jumping off the mall's roof, after learning from friends inside that they were quizzed on names of the Prophet Muhammad's relatives. A Jewish man scribbled a Quranic scripture on his hand to memorize, after hearing the terrorists were asking captives to recite specific verses. Numerous survivors described how the attackers from al-Shabab, a Somali cell which recently joined al-Qaeda, shot people who failed to provide the correct answers.

Their chilling accounts, combined with internal al-Shabab documents discovered earlier this year by The Associated Press, mark the final notch in a transformation within the global terror network, which began to rethink its approach after its setbacks in Iraq. Al-Qaeda has since realized that the indiscriminate killing of Muslims is a strategic liability, and hopes instead to create a schism between Muslims and everyone else, whom they consider "kuffar," or apostates.
. . .
Until the Westgate attack, the group made no effort to spare Muslim civilians, hitting packed restaurants, bus stations and a government building where hundreds of students were awaiting test results. And until his death in 2011, Osama bin Laden refused to allow Shabab into the al-Qaeda network, according to letters retrieved from his safehouse in Pakistan. The letters show that the terror leader was increasingly troubled by regional jihadi operations killing Muslim civilians.

In a letter to Shabab in 2010, bin Laden politely advised the Somali-based fighters to review their operations "in order to minimize the toll to Muslims." Shabab did not get the green light to join al-Qaeda until February 2012, almost a year after bin Laden's death.
. . .
In an email exchange this week with The Associated Press, it made its intentions clear: "The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar before carrying out their attack." However, even at Westgate, al-Shabab still killed Muslims, who were among the more than 60 civilians gunned down inside.

Their attack was timed to coincide with the highest traffic at the upscale mall after 12:30 pm on Sept. 21, a Saturday. More than 1,000 people, including diplomats, pregnant women with strollers and foreign couples, were inside when the fighters armed with grenades and AK-47s burst in and opened fire. At first the attack had the indiscriminate character of all of Shabab's previous assaults.
. . .
Al-Shabab's attempts to identify Muslims are clear in the 16-page transcript from the conference of Islamic scholars held in the Somali town of Baidoa, an area known to be under Shabab control in 2011, according to Somalia specialist Kenneth Menkhaus, a political science professor at Davidson College in North Carolina. The scholars issued several fatwas defining exactly who was a Muslim and who was an apostate.

The document states it is halal, or lawful, to kill and rob those who commit crimes against Islam: "The French and the English are to be treated equally: Their blood and their money are halal wherever they may be. No Muslim in any part of the world may cooperate with them in any way. ... It leads to apostasy and expulsion from Islam," it says. Further on it adds: "Accordingly, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Ugandans and Burundians are just like the English and the French because they have invaded the Islamic country of Somalia."
. . .
In a second document dated Feb. 29, 2012 - just two weeks after al-Shabab joins al-Qaeda - the organization warns Muslims to stay away from buildings occupied by non-Muslims, chillingly predicting and justifying the death of Muslims at Westgate.

"And so all Muslims must stay far away from the enemy and their installations so as not to become human shields for them, and so as not to be hurt by the blows of the mujahedeen directed at the Crusader enemies," it says. "There is no excuse for those who live or mingle with the enemies in their locations."

Yet at the same time it says: "The mujahideen are sincere in wanting to spare the blood of their brother Muslims, and they don't want a Muslim to die from the bullets directed at the enemies of God."

This is a concession for an organization that since its inception had killed people constantly, said Rudolph Atallah, who tracked Shabab as Africa counterterrorism director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2003 to 2007.

"They would just go and mow people down," Atallah said. "They are now sending a clear message that, 'Look, we're different ... We're no longer indiscriminately killing. We're protecting innocent Muslims and we are trying to kill quote-unquote 'infidels,' nonbelievers."

A similar tactic paid off in January after al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Moktar Belmoktar attacked a gas installation in Algeria, Atallah said. When his fighters freed hundreds of Muslim employees, a Facebook page dedicated to him exploded with "Likes."...

Nigeria: Muslim militants fire on sleeping students as they storm a dormitory and set classrooms ablaze, 40 dead

The attackers reportedly stormed a dormitory and set fire to classrooms in the assault which happened about 1am local time on Sunday in the town of Gujba in Yobe state.

Nigeria's military is blaming militants from the Boko Haram insurgent group for the atrocity at the College of Agriculture.

A source told the AFP news agency that 40 bodies had been brought to hospital.

College provost Molima Idi Mato said security forces were still recovering bodies so he could not give an exact number of dead but said up to 50 had been killed.

He also said about 1,000 students had fled the scene.

The college is about 25 miles from the scene of similar school attacks around Damaturu town.

There were no security forces stationed at the college despite government assurances, said Mr Mato.

Two weeks ago, state commission for education Mohammmed Lamin urged all schools to reopen and promising protection by soldiers and police.

Most schools in the area closed after militants killed 29 pupils and a teacher, burning some alive in their hostels at Mamudo outside Damaturu on July 6.

Northeast Nigeria is in a military state of emergency following an Islamic uprising by Boko Haram militants who have killed more than 1,700 people since 2010 in their quest for an Islamic state.

Yobe has seen a series of brutal attacks targeting students in recent months, all blamed on the group.
. . .
Boko Haram has said it is fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, but the group is believed to be made up of different factions with varying aims.
Update:
Yobe State Specialist Hospital yesterday received 15 more corpses of students killed by suspected Boko Haram members during an attack on the College of Agriculture in Gujba local government area of Yobe State. The corpses were in addition to about 50 bodies earlier brought to the hospital's morgue two hours after the attack by the sect members.

A hospital ambulance conveyed 12 bodies while students provided security escort to the hospital. Dead bodies were picked from the surrounding bushes.

A source from the hospital told LEADERSHIP that, apart from the 50 students killed in the attack, 15 more corpses of students were brought to the hospital. "We collected 49 on Sunday and today another 15, bringing the total death toll to 64. And the fact is that we did not take into account bodies recovered in the bush, and our people are still in the morgue for received corpses," he said.

Speaking on the injured students, the source said, "I cannot tell you the exact number of the injured in yesterday's attacks. I am certain that many students were brought here, Sani Abacha Specialist Hospital, Damaturu, for treatment, while now we have 64 bodies of the students at the hospital morgue for further identification by the hospital authorities and parents."

Eighteen students of Government Secondary School, Mamudo, were killed by the same Boko Haram gunmen on July 6, 2013, while the Buni-Yadi attacks of last Thursday claimed the lives of three persons, including the wife of a police officer...

Pakistan: Explosion rips through a market in the city of Peshawar, leaving at least 25 dead and dozens wounded

An explosion has ripped through a market in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar, leaving at least 25 dead and dozens wounded, officials say. The explosion took place in the Kissa Khwani market, with shops and vehicles set alight.

The blast comes a week after a double suicide bombing that killed at least 80 people at a church in the city.

On Friday, at least 17 people were killed in the bombing of a bus carrying government employees near Peshawar.

Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been hit by numerous bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents in recent years.

Police said they suspected the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted the health minister as saying that the main Peshawar police station may have been the main target.

UK: The state school where girls are forced to wear hijabs in classrooms and outside school

Pupils have to wear hijabs in and OUT of class for the first time at a state-backed school in Blackburn.

The cover-up was ordered at the 800-pupil Tauheedul Islam Girls' High School where students already have to dress in long purple tunics over black trousers to ensure flesh is not seen.

Under the rules, pupils must 'wear the hijab outside the school and home, recite the Koran at a least once a week' and not have stationery which shows 'unIslamic images' like pictures of pop stars.

Ten per cent of the students in the sixth-form wear the niqab veil which covers the face except the eyes.

The voluntary-aided school is the flagship of the Tauheedul charitable trust which wants to open 12 Muslim free schools across the country.

Three have been approved so far with one in Hackney opening this month, despite concerns raised by a former government advisor on the prevention of terrorism.

Haris Rafiq told the Sunday Times: 'I think it threatens to create young British Muslims who are not able to integrate in the wider society, who are living in isolation and outside the wider community.'
. . .
Meanwhile, David Cameron said today the state should back institutions such as schools, courthouses and immigration centres which require individuals to remove face-covering veils.

Mr Cameron said he did not believe there should be a ban on wearing the niqab - which conceals the whole face - in the streets.

But he made clear he was 'happy' to look at the issue of whether the state needed to do more to back up institutions which choose to implement a ban.

Mr Cameron told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'We are a free country and people should be free to wear whatever clothes they like in public or in private.

'But we should support those institutions that need to put in place rules so that those institutions can work properly.

'So for instance in a school, if they want that particular dress code, I believe the Government should back them. The same for courts, the same for immigration.

'I think we should back those institutions that want to have sensible policies that actually have a particular purpose.'

Asked if he would respond to a judge's suggestion that there should be national guidelines on the wearing of the niqab in court, Mr Cameron said: 'I'm very happy to look at that.

'Obviously, in court the jury needs to be able to look at someone's face. I've sat on a jury, that's part of what you do.

'When someone is coming into the country, an immigration officer needs to see someone's face.

'In a school, it's very difficult to teach unless you can look at your pupils in the eye...

Pakistan: Death toll crossed 400 in quake-stricken zone as Muslim insurgents continue to obstruct relief efforts

Qadir, who rushed to Balochistan on the instruction of the Prime Minister soon after the calamity hit six districts of the province, said more than 600 people were injured when the 7.7-magnitude quake pounded the region.

“Nobody is ready to see Balochistan’s wounds,” he observed while criticising the Sindh government for its sluggish response to help out Balochistan.

The calamity has left over a hundred thousand people homeless in some 11 villages razed to the ground, he informed the House. Three battalions of Pakistan Army have already reached the quake zone where Frontier Constabulary started relief operation, the minister told the lawmakers.

The minister who had rushed to Awaran revealed, “We heard firing while landing in one of the areas. We thought our convoy may be the target, but it could not be established,” Baloch told the house.

Mashkay, the epicentre of quake, is considered to be stronghold of the militant group—Allah Nazar. But the minister emphasised that the military is only conducting relief operation rather than an operation against insurgents. “Locals demand relief through Army only,” he said.

The FC and army will provide security to rescue teams, he also appealed to national and international agencies to come up for assistance of quake survivors...

Saudi Arabia: Women shouldn't drive because it damages their ovaries and pelvis, warns Sheikh Salah al-Luhaydan

For more on Islam's views and laws concerning women, click here.

A Saudi sheikh has warned women that driving could affect their ovaries and pelvises.

Women are currently banned from driving in Saudi Arabia and many have protested against the statute.

However, Sheikh Salah al-Luhaydan has warned them that their health could be at risk if they get behind the wheel.

He told Saudi news website sabq.org: '[Driving] could have a reverse physiological impact.

'Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis.

'This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees.'

The comments come two years after a ‘scientific’ report claimed that relaxing the ban would also see more Saudis - both men and women - turn to homosexuality and pornography.

The startling conclusions were drawn in 2011 at the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, working in conjunction with Kamal Subhi, a former professor at the King Fahd University.

Their report assessed the possible impact of repealing the ban in Saudi Arabia, the only country in the world where women are not allowed behind the wheel.

It was delivered to all 150 members of the Shura Council, the country’s legislative body.

The report warned that allowing women to drive would ‘provoke a surge in prostitution, homosexuality, and pornography’. Within ten years of the ban being lifted, the report’s authors claimed, there would be ‘no more virgins’ in the Islamic kingdom.

And it pointed out ‘moral decline’ could already be seen in other Muslim countries where women are allowed to drive.

In the report Professor Subhi described sitting in a coffee shop in an unnamed Arab state.

‘All the women were looking at me,’ he wrote. ‘One made a gesture that made it clear she was available... this is what happens when women are allowed to drive.’

Women in Saudi Arabia have not been permitted to drive since the establishment of the state in 1932...

Philippines: Deadly three-week standoff between troops and Muslim rebels that killed more than 200 people is over

A deadly three-week standoff between government troops and Muslim rebels who held nearly 200 people hostage in the southern Philippines has ended with all of the remaining captives safe, officials said Saturday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said only a handful of Moro National Liberation Front rebels remained in hiding and were being hunted by troops in the coastal outskirts of Zamboanga city. He said authorities were trying to determine whether rebel commander Habier Malik, who led the Sept. 9 siege, was dead. Gunshots briefly rang out and a fire erupted in a small area Saturday.

More than 200 people were killed in the clashes, including 183 rebels, 23 soldiers and police, and 12 civilians. It was in one of the bloodiest and longest-running attacks by a Muslim group in the southern Philippines, the scene of a decades-long Muslim rebellion for self-rule in the largely Roman Catholic country.

"I can say that the crisis is over. We have accomplished the mission," Gazmin said by telephone from Zamboanga, where he helped oversee a government offensive and hostage rescue mission by about 4,500 government troops and police backed by tanks, navy gunboats and rocket-firing helicopters.

Gazmin said 195 hostages had either been rescued, managed to escape or were freed. It was unclear whether any of the 12 civilians killed in the standoff were hostages.

The gunbattles, including exchanges of grenade and mortar fire, forced about 130,000 residents — more than 10 percent of the population of the bustling port city — to flee their homes to emergency shelters, including Zamboanga's main sports complex. About 10,000 houses were burned by the rebels or destroyed in the fighting, which raged in a 30-hectare (74-acre) area encompassing six coastal communities, according to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas...

UK: Devout Muslim subjected wife to a year of 'hell' and terrorized her into wearing a veil after she said she wanted to go to college

A devout Muslim who subjected his battered wife to a year of ‘hell’ after he terrorised her into wearing a veil has been jailed but may go free - in just eight weeks.

Jubel Miah, 21 - who in 2010 was sent to a young offenders institute for possessing heroin with intent to supply - had ordered his terrified spouse to wear a full niqab after she said she was going to college to study.

Initially he called her a ‘slag and b****’ for wanting to better her education, then sneered: ‘You are a married woman. You don’t do this.’

The unnamed wife only agreed to wear the full face veil, with just eye holes after thinking he would stop him making her life a misery.

But instead Miah began beating her - initially because she was not smiling during Eid celebrations with family.

During a catalogue of violent and controlling behaviour, Miah from Burnley, Lancashire, ripped her tongue, kicked and punched her, inflicted black eyes on her and battered her confidence.

He also tracked her movements using his mobile phone, tried to stop her going to college, accused her of cheating and falsely claiming there were ‘spies’ in their loft.

When the victim became pregnant she was found to have injuries to her body and eye when she went to hospital for a 16-week check-up.

And when she later went through a traumatic birth delivering a premature baby, Miah was so enraged that a male doctor was treating his wife afterwards, a female medic had to be brought. He was also very irate and threatening to people trying to help the family.

The wife finally escaped from his clutches after he subjected her to a sustained attack in which he stabbed her with scissors and hit her with a dumbell.

Details of her ordeal emerged at Burnley magistrates court as Miah was locked away for 16 weeks after admitting common assault by beating.

He was also given an indefinite restraining order to keep him away from the victim. The sentence means Miah could be free in just two months for good behaviour. The maximum sentence he could have faced was six months.
. . .
Earlier, prosecutor Miss Charlotte Crane said the beatings began after Miah ‘interrogated’ his wife about going to college and wearing the veil.

Last November the couple had been at Eid celebrations with family, she was playing with some children and Miah demanded to know why she was not smiling. He slapped her face and pushed her against a wall and held her there.

Miss Crane said he apologised, the relationship continued but he then accused the victim of talking to men when she was out. The victim, then four months pregnant, said she wasn’t, but was given a black eye.

She pleaded with him to stop the abuse and in April the baby was born 10 weeks prematurely. It was kept in special care and every day when the victim returned home from visiting the infant, she was met with further insults.

The couple separated but got back together and Miah accused neighbours of spying on her. He ordered her to sit down in silence, left his iPhone on record and checked it on his return to make sure she had not spoken to anybody. He claimed there were people spying and people in the loft.

Miss Crane said on September 17, the victim tried to pacify Miah when he believed people were in the house and was angry. He punched her repeatedly, told her he didn’t believe she wasn’t cheating, rammed his fingers in her mouth, pulled her tongue and scratched it until it bled.

He kicked and struck her thigh, picked up some scissors and threatened to stab her. The victim put up her right arm and Miah plunged the scissors into her hand, causing a deep gash. He then struck her on the back with a large dumbell.

The victim escaped to her mother’s, where her injuries were seen and she told of the abuse. Police were called. The victim had a black eye, cuts to her face, hand and leg and her tongue was sore.

Miss Crane added: ‘The defendant is not interested in showing any remorse in any way, shape or form, with regards to the hell he has put this lady through over the last 12 months.

‘If that doesn’t warrant an immediate custodial sentence at the higher level, I don’t know what does.’

In mitigation defence lawyer Adnan Hanif said: ‘It’s not often that I am lost for words.’ He said what Miah had done would probably cause lasting scars to the victim and her family. His family was very upset with him.

The solicitor continued: ‘His actions have affected quite a number of people and I would say that quite a number of lives have, in effect, been destroyed. There is nothing that allows the defendant to behave in that manner. I feel sorry for the victim in this case.’

Nigeria: Christian pastor and son killed, church destroyed in terrorist attack by Muslim group Boko Haram

A Christian pastor and his son were killed and a church was destroyed by suspected Islamic militants using automatic weapons and explosives in northeast Nigeria early Thursday morning, according to Nigerian police.

A village leader was also killed in Dorawa, the Associated Press reported, quoting Corporal Musa Ibrahim.

According to Ibrahim, the attackers used explosives to ignite the church as well as five homes.

Dorawa is situated some 60 miles from the Yobe state school where dozens of people were killed by extremists on July 6, including some who were burned alive.

Boko Haram, the jihadi extremist group that seeks to establish Sharia law in Nigeria, is believed to have been behind the school attack, though it has not been named as being behind Thursday’s killing of the pastor.

“Yobe is one of three northeastern states under a military emergency to try to halt an Islamic uprising by militants who have killed more than 1,700 people since 2010 in their quest to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state and ban Western education though the country of 160 million people has as many Christians as Muslims,” the AP reported.

Boko Haram has been attacking Nigeria’s Christian community, with shootings and bombings at schools, churches and elsewhere.

Yemen: Gunmen shoot dead a man in the south of the country because they suspected he was homosexual

For more on persecution of homosexuals, click here.

One of two men on a motorbike opened fire at the man in his twenties late on Thursday outside his house in Huta, the capital of Lahij province, killing him on the spot.

Police said the attackers, presumed Islamist militants, escaped after the killing, the sixth such murder since the start of the year.

Similar killings in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation's provinces of Abyan and Aden have been blamed on an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group, Ansar al-Sharia.

For the past year, Ansar al-Sharia has imposed Islamic law on areas of Abyan where it still holds sway.

Its so-called courts have tried and condemned to death several people accused of different crimes. Others have had hands amputated after being "convicted" of theft...

Kenya: Eyes gouged out, bodies hanging from hooks, fingers removed with pliers, soldiers reveal gory mall massacre details

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Soldiers told of the horrific torture meted out by terrorists in the Nairobi mall massacre yesterday with claims hostages were dismembered, had their eyes gouged out and were left hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

Men were said to have been castrated and had fingers removed with pliers before being blinded and hanged.

Children were found dead in the food court fridges with knives still embedded in their bodies, it was claimed.

Most of the defeated terrorists, meanwhile, were reportedly discovered ‘burnt to ashes’, set alight by the last extremist standing to try to protect their identities.

The horrifying details came yesterday as the first pictures emerged from within the wreckage of the building, showing piles of bodies left strewn across the floor.

A third of the mall was destroyed in the battle between terrorists and Kenyan troops.

Lying in the rubble are feared to be the bodies of as many as 71 civilians who have been declared missing by the Kenyan Red Cross.
. . .
Yesterday, soldiers and doctors who were among the first people into the mall after it was reclaimed on Tuesday, spoke of the horrifying scenes inside.

‘You find people with hooks hanging from the roof,’ said one Kenyan doctor, who asked not to be named.

‘They removed eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body.

'Actually if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers. Here it was pain.’

A soldier, who took pictures at a bread counter and at the ArtCaffe, said he was so traumatised by what he saw he has had to seek counselling.
. . .
During the firefight, hostages reportedly had their throats slashed from ear to ear and were thrown screaming from third-floor balconies as the siege came to a bloody end. Forensics teams, still sifting through the mountains of rubble, fear many more bodies are yet to be found.

Shell-shocked Kenyan troops said the inside of the Israeli-run mall resembled a ‘scene from a horror movie’ with blood spattered everywhere and dead bodies strewn across the floor.

The main thrust of the operation began at 6am on Monday when troops and helicopters surrounded the building, but their efforts were hampered by an Al Shabaab sniper who managed to pin them back for nearly 24 hours.

As tear gas was used to try to flush him out, another terrorist reportedly blew himself up. It is believed the resulting fire may have killed dozens of shoppers in a supermarket.

The following day, the soldiers were ordered to adopt a 'shoot to kill' policy and launched their final attack on the terror group on the roof of the mall at 5pm.

The mall was retaken about half an hour later.

International police body Interpol has issued a wanted persons notice for Briton Samantha Lewthwaite, at Kenya's request

Ms Lewthwaite, 29, is the widow of one of the four suicide bombers who attacked London on 7 July 2005.

Known colloquially as the "white widow", she has been linked with Somali militant Islamist group al-Shabab.

Interpol did not link the warrant to the Nairobi shopping complex attack that left at least 67 dead.

However, it comes after much speculation linking Ms Lewthwaite to events there.

Al-Shabab was behind the attack and subsequent four-day siege at the Westgate shopping complex in the Kenyan capital.

An Interpol statement said she was "wanted by Kenya on charges of being in possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony dating back to December 2011".

The Interpol alert, known as a "Red Notice", requires member countries to detain the suspect pending extradition procedures.
. . .
She is the widow of Germaine Lindsay, one of the four bombers involved in the 7 July terror attacks in London in 2005 in which 52 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

The BBC's Dominic Casciani says Interpol's red notice acts like a global wanted poster, but it's also a concession by the Kenyan security forces that she is an international danger, not just someone who should be regarded as a passport fraudster.

Kenya is continuing three days of official mourning for the civilian and military victims of the siege...

Kenya: Authorities say a white British woman resembling wife of London 7/7 bomber was involved in mall attack

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Although there is no evidence which proves Lewthwaite was involved in the horrific attacks in Nairobi which left dozens dead, Kenya's foreign minister has said a British woman was among the Islamist assailants.

And yesterday a woman who was inside the shopping centre said she locked eyes with an AK-47-wielding ‘pale-skinned woman’ with long dark hair – the same as British Muslim convert Lewthwaite – as she opened fire from a balcony.

Amazingly, the woman, who gave her name only as Caroline, escaped unharmed as Islamists stormed the Westgate shopping centre.

She said: ‘She was high up but not far from me, close enough that I saw her looking along the floor where I was until she saw me.

‘She stopped and aimed at me and then opened fire. All of the bullets did not hit me, I don’t know how that happened.

‘She stopped firing at me for a moment and looked away and I jumped up and ran around a corner and that’s how I escaped.

‘She had pale skin and long black hair, and was wearing a baggy black top. I can’t remember very much, but I remember she had pale skin.’

A senior Kenyan anti-terror officer last night revealed that police had received many witness accounts of a female attacker resembling the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay.

He added: ‘We believe that she was involved in the attack. We cannot doubt the eyewitnesses who say they saw her commanding the attackers.’

Kenya foreign minister Amina Mohamed added: ‘The Briton was a woman... who has done this many times before.’

A Twitter account thought to belong to the militant group al-Shabaab, which tweeted their cruel attack, also claimed that Lewthwaite ‘commanded’ the attack.

A post said: ‘We have received permission to disclose the involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite aka sherafiyah [her Islamic name], she successfully overseered [sic] the mission.’

British security officials say they have yet to receive confirmation from the Kenyan authorities of Lewthwaite’s role in the attack, but they would not be ‘entirely surprised’ if she is involved.

The classmate, who knew Lewthwaite in her days at The Grange School in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in the late 1990s said she was a model student who was popular with teachers.

The man, who was in the same Religious Education class as her, said: 'From when I first met her she was interested in the religion, she knew a lot about it.

'She never mentioned anything about converting to me but I think it was where everyone knew she was going.
. . .
The revelation came as African media reported that Lewthwaite had been renting property in Kenya under the alias Natalie Faye Webb, and had run up debts of more than £6,000.

According to credit records released by a tv news network, she was listed as living in the city's predominantly South Asian neighbourhood of Mayfair for four years.

It emerged yesterday that Lewthwaite’s grandmother, 85-year-old Ellen Allen, was rushed to hospital in Banbridge, Northern Ireland after collapsing from the stress of her granddaughter’s notoriety.

Lewthwaite has been on the run since police foiled her bomb plot targeting Western hotels and a shopping mall in the Kenyan coastal resort of Mombasa in December 2011.

Yesterday, the trial for her British accomplice in this plot, Jermaine Grant, began in Mombasa.
. . .
As mother-of-four Lewthwaite’s relatives in the UK maintained a wall of silence, a former police detective told the Mail he was ‘not surprised’ to learn of her suspected role in the attack.

Noel Hogan, who interviewed the former grammar school pupil shortly before the July 7 bombings, said: ‘If Samantha is involved, it does not surprise me.’

Mr Hogan was hired by a bank to investigate why their customer, Lewthwaite’s husband Lindsay, had spent £900 on dozens of bottles of perfume over a matter of days.

The suspicious purchases were made just days before the July 7 bombings and were used to make the homemade explosives.

As part of his agency’s investigation, they spoke to Lewthwaite four times. Mr Hogan said: ‘On each occasion it was noted that her stories were inconsistent and her demeanour was unusual.

‘We didn’t consider her a particularly honest individual.’

Yet those who knew Lewthwaite from her hometown of Aylesbury expressed surprise at her role as one of Al Shabaab’s key financiers and bomb-making tutors.

Councillor Raj Khan said: ‘She was an average, British, young, ordinary girl. She didn’t have very good confidence. There was nothing that made me worried about her.’

Lewthwaite was seven months pregnant when her husband blew himself up, killing 26 people.

Kenya: President has declared the end of a bloody four-day siege by Muslim militants at Westgate shopping centre

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Five attackers were shot dead by troops and 11 suspects were in custody, he said in a TV address to the nation.

Kenya has "shamed and defeated our attackers" but the "losses are immense", he said, confirming that 61 civilians and six soldiers had died.

Three days of national mourning have been declared, starting on Wednesday.

As the clearing of the mall continues, Kenya is braced for the death toll to rise further.

Several bodies - including those of "terrorists" - are thought to be trapped under rubble after three floors of the building collapsed following a blaze on Monday, officials said.

Some 175 people were injured in the attack; 62 people remain in hospital and many others are being treated for shock and are undergoing counselling.

"I promise that we shall have a full accountability for the mindless destruction, deaths, pain, loss and suffering we have all undergone as a national family," the president said.

"These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are."

At least 18 foreigners are among the dead, including six Britons, as well as citizens from France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Peru, India, Ghana, South Africa and China.

Continued threat

The militants stormed the Westgate centre on Saturday, throwing grenades and firing indiscriminately on shoppers and staff.

Somali Islamist group al-Shabab said it had carried out the attack in retaliation for Kenyan army operations in Somalia.

The president said he could not confirm reports that a British national and two or three US citizens were involved in the attacks, but he said forensic experts were carrying out tests to ascertain their nationalities.

US: 90% of country's top newspaper headlines censor Islam in Kenya's mall crisis and Pakistan's church attack

Dare a top newspaper journalist to play connect-the-dots and chances are he’ll fail miserably – at least with drawing the line between Islam and terrorism. In Nairobi, Kenya last weekend, Islamist militants took over a high-end shopping mall and began executing non-Muslims. In Pakistan, Islamist suicide bombers detonated at a Christian Church on Sunday.

Yet on Monday, September 23, 90 percent of the top ten (via circulation numbers) daily newspapers’ headlines in the United States censored the words “Islam” and Muslim” from Nairobi and Pakistan reports. One – the New York Daily News – didn’t even have a headline for the latest Islamic terrorist attacks. That’s journalism at its finest.

The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) headline by Heidi Vogt announced that “Assault on Mall Stuns Kenya” and called the act a “terrorist attack” by “armed militants.” In a small reference to the Pakistan Christian fatalities, the newspaper credited a group linked with the “Pakistan Taliban.”

As the second most popular newspaper after the WSJ, The New York Times proclaimed “Carnage In Mall Shows Resilience of Terror Group” for an article by Nicholas Kulish, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt. In fact, on the front page the Times used every description but the Islamic connection to describe the aggressors: “the ferocious armed political movement known as the Shabab” – with ties to Al Qaeda and Boko Haram.

Only USA Today (number three in circulation) broke Islam silence with a headline admitting, “Islamists kill dozens in Kenya and Pakistan” (under an even larger headline: “Two New Terror Attacks”). Jim Michaels and William W. Welch’s story detailed how “Islamic extremists unleashed bloody attacks.” For Pakistan, the reporters called Sunday’s two suicide bombers assault “the deadliest-ever attack against the nation’s Christian minority” and included a picture with a caption describing, “a relative of victims of the Christian church bombings.”

The New York Post’s front page read “BLOODY RAID” and “Kenyan soldiers storm mall, save most hostages. Its Sunday cover showed a woman running with a baby above the words “Terror massacre in Kenya.” but the website publicized. Only inside the piece were the assailants described as “Islamist attackers” related to “Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.”

The Chicago Sun-Times’s website broadcast “2 Militants Killed in Mall Attack: Kenya Minister” by Associated Press’ Jason Straziuso and Tom Odula. Inside the piece, the reporters noted that “two Islamic extremists were killed.”

The Washington Post’s front page read “Kenyan Forces Move Into Mall, Rescue Many” for a piece by Sudarsan Raghavan and Greg Miller. The story below noted “Islamist militants” connected to al-Shabab militia and Al Qaeda. For Pakistan, The Washington Post blamed “suicide bombers” for murdering “scores outside a Christian church.”

The rest of newspapers unabashedly blacked out Islamic ties in reports. The Los Angeles Times’s front page to “Kenya Fights Terrorists in Mall Siege,” by Nicholas Soi and Robyn Dixon, charged “Somali militants.” The Denver Post’s front page, for “Kenya Moves to End Siege at Mall” by The Washington Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan, faulted “heavily armed assailants” for Nairobi and “bombers” for Pakistan. Chicago Tribune’s front, entitled, “Security Forces Launch Assault to End Mall Standoff,” cited “Somali militants.”

Last and least, the New York Daily News offered nada on the front page to the attacks. The publication deemed the Emmys and baseball news more worthy.

Kenya: 2 Muslim terrorists killed in Nairobi mall crisis, death toll at 62, few if any hostages left in the building

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Four thunderous explosions rattled Nairobi's upscale mall Monday, part of a battle between Kenyan troops and al-Qaida-linked terrorists. Top Kenyan officials said two hostage takers, part of "a multinational collection from all over the world," had been killed.

Kenya's interior minister said the evacuation of hostages "has gone very, very well" and that Kenyan officials are "very certain" that there are few if any hostages left in the building.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku also revised the death toll to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people have died since the siege on Westgate Mall began on Saturday, while the Red Cross had put the toll at 68, then in a tweet lowered it to 62, saying some bodies had been counted twice.

Dark plumes of smoke rose from the mall for more than an hour after four large explosions rocked the upscale Westlands neighborhood. A person with knowledge of the rescue operation told The Associated Press that the smoke was rising up and out of a large skylight inside the mall's main department and grocery store, Nakumatt, where goods like mattresses may have been lit on fire.

Kenya Chief of Defense forces Gen. Julius Karangi said fighters from an array of nations participated in the attack claimed by al-Shabab, a Somali group allied with al-Qaida.
. . .
The four explosions were followed by volleys of gunfire, then a thick, dark column of smoke that burned for roughly 90 minutes. Military and police helicopters and one plane circled over the Nairobi mall, giving the upscale neighborhood the feel of a war zone.

On Sunday Kenyan officials announced that "most" hostages had been rescued. But no numbers were given. Kenyan officials have never said how many hostages they thought the attackers had, but have said preserving the hostages' lives is a top priority, greatly complicating the final fight against the attackers.

Kenyans and foreigners were among those confirmed dead, including British, French, Canadians, Indians, a Ghanaian, a South African and a Chinese woman. The UK Foreign Office said Monday it has confirmed the deaths of four British nationals.
. . .
The al-Shabab extremists stormed the mall on Saturday from two sides, throwing grenades and firing on civilians.

Kenyan authorities said they would do their utmost to save hostages' lives, but no officials could say precisely how many people were being held captive. Kenya's Red Cross said in a statement, citing police, that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could give an indication of the number of people held captive.

Al-Shabab said the attack, targeting non-Muslims, was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.

Tanzania: Catholic priest survives acid attack, 15 people, including Muslim militants detained for involvement

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Fifteen people, including militants of terror network al-Qaida and Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab have been detained for alleged involvement in acid attacks against a priest and more than a dozen other people on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, police said.

The news came while Catholic priest Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was recovering Sunday, September 22, after he survived an acid attack on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar following two other attacks against priests.

Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa told reporters that he was attacked Friday, September 13, after leaving an Internet cafe in Zanzibar City. He was transferred to a hospital in Dar-es-Salaam on the mainland of Tanzania.

Two other Catholic priests were shot in the past year in what was seen as a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in Zanzibar, a heavily Muslim island some 22 miles (35 kilometers) outside the mainland. One priest was wounded last year and the other killed in February.

Several churches have been set on fire.

ACID WEAPON

More recently, attackers have chosen acid as their favorite weapon against those they consider "infidels" or unwanted.

Last month, Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup, both 18, were reportedly attacked in Stone Town, in the historic central section of Zanzibar City. The British nationals were in Zanzibar as volunteer teachers.

In July, a businessman of Arab descent was also sprayed with acid, residents said.

Police Commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa told media that police had seized 29 liters of acid from various people who were not legally entitled to have it.

He did not provide more details about the allegations that militants were among those detained, but church leaders have expressed oncerns about rising extremism in the area, a development that authorities fear could further impact crucial revenues from tourism.

Pakistan: Two suicide bombers kill 81 people during a church service in the northwestern city of Peshawar

Two suicide bombers killed 81 people in an attack during a Christian church service in northwestern Pakistan, sparking protests across the country and jeopardizing prospects for peace talks with militants.

The attackers detonated explosives inside All Saints’ Church in Peshawar near the Afghanistan border while as many as 600 worshipers listened to a sermon, Zaheer ul Islam, the city’s deputy commissioner, told state-run Pakistan TV. The death toll rose today to 81, Mohammad Arif, deputy superintendent of casualties at Lady Reading Hospital, said by phone.

The blasts, among the deadliest of roughly 85 bomb and suicide attacks in Pakistan this year, come two weeks after political leaders agreed to initiate dialogue with militants in the region, including the Taliban. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s three-month-old government has advocated talks with the groups to stem the violence and revive the country’s economy.

“We will go after those who committed this tragedy,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who said 34 women and seven children died in the attack, told lawmakers today in the National Assembly. “We will bring them to justice.”

Militants Emboldened

The government regrets that it’s “unable to move forward” in its peace initiative in this environment, Sharif told reporters during a stop in London as he traveled to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York. His comments were carried live by Geo network.

Sharif earlier condemned the attacks, expressed solidarity with the Christian community and pledged to provide medical and emergency assistance to the victims. Muslims account for more than 96 percent of the country’s 193 million people, with Christians, Hindus and other minorities accounting for the rest, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“It seems to be a well-planned and coordinated attack to weaken the government’s resolve to fight terrorists at a time when it’s considering negotiations with Taliban groups,” Rashid Ahmed Khan, a professor of international relations at the University of Sargodha in Punjab province, said by phone. “These attacks have put Sharif in a very tough spot. His offer of talks has emboldened these groups.”

Sunday school children and choir members were among the dead, according to the Peshawar Diocese’s website. All Saints’ Church is part of the Church of Pakistan, which was formed in 1970 following a union between Lutherans, Scottish Presbyterians, Methodists and the Anglicans, the website said. All Christian schools in the country were closed today to mourn the death of believers.

‘Not Humans’

Religious books and shoes littered the church’s blood-stained floor while shrapnel left holes in the walls, local television footage showed. Men and women cried and shouted as volunteers carried the wounded from the splintered church building to hospitals, while relatives placed coffins with the dead in the middle of roads in Peshawar to protest the bombings.

One of the bombers was dressed in a police uniform, Sahibzada Anees, Peshawar’s police commissioner, told Pakistan TV. The attackers each carried six kilograms (13 pounds) of explosives, Geo TV reported, citing Shafqat Malik, inspector general of the bomb disposal squad.

“Those who did this were not humans,” Imran Khan, whose party runs Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters outside the hospital in Peshawar. “I don’t think we should give up efforts to find those groups who want to talk. We need to know who wants to talk.”

The bombing is the second major attack since Sharif’s government decided to initiate talks with militants on Sept. 9. Two Pakistan army officers, including a major-general, were killed last week in a roadside blast in northwestern Pakistan.

Dialogue Threatened

“Dialogue with militants cannot take place in such a situation,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a Lahore-based independent security analyst who formerly taught at Columbia University in New York, said by phone. “They are responding to the government’s offer of dialogue with the bullet. They are viewing the offer as a sign of the government’s weakness.”

While no one has yet claimed responsibility for the church bombing, pro-Taliban Pakistani militants have been blamed for a campaign of suicide bombings. Pakistan’s Taliban is a loose group of militant and sectarian organizations that oppose the country’s security ties with the U.S., including drone attacks in the region, and want to impose their own interpretation of Islamic law.

Taliban Attacks

Although the U.S. has reduced the number of drone strikes since 2011, it continues to target militants and al Qaeda operatives taking refuge in Pakistani tribal regions on the border. A suspected drone attack on a house yesterday in a Pakistan area bordering Afghanistan killed six people, Geo TV reported, citing unidentified officials.

As many 1,222 people, including 425 police and security officials and 797 civilians, have been killed in 858 terrorist attacks across Pakistan from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, according to statistics presented to parliament by the Interior Ministry this month. That included 25 suicide attacks and 60 bomb blasts.

Authorities failed to provide adequate security for the church and bear some responsibility, according to Paul Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which represents Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths. Protesters in cities such as Karachi and Lahore burned tires and chanted slogans criticizing the government’s inability to protect the church.

“Militants are trying to foment religious and sectarian hatred in Pakistan,” Bhatti said by phone. “They are trying to create chaos in this country.”
Updates:
After the bombs in the church of All Saints in Peshawar, the situation remains tense in the Pakistani society: not only tragedy but also horror. The Christians said they were "horrified" by the rumors that link the bombs in Peshawar to the vast problem of organ trafficking: this is what some members of NGOs in civil society in Pakistan told Fides. Some of the "jackals", presumably local paramedics, seem to have taken advantage of the high number of deaths and injuries in order to steal the bodies of victims and exploit them for the illegal organ trade. "If this were true, it would mean that there are criminals who are taking advantage of the suffering of Christian victims in a truly blasphemous and sacrilegious manner", notes Fr. Mario Rodrigues, a priest of Karachi.

"We call for a serious investigation on behalf of the police", he concludes. Pakistan enacted a law to regulate organ transplants in 2010, to shake off its reputation as a "destination leader" for transplant tourism and to stop the illegal trafficking of human organs. After the approval of the law, the illicit traffic slowed down, but in 2011 many cases of illegal transplants emerged again. Last July, given the data of a "thriving business", the Supreme Court issued directives asking the provincial government to take action and enforce the law.

According to police investigations, 42 medical facilities engaged in illegal organ transplants have been identified in Punjab.
Coming on the heels of a murderous attack by militant Islamists on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the entrance of an historic Anglican church nestled within the walled city of Peshawar, Pakistan on Sunday, September 22, just as services were ending, killing 78 Christians and wounding more than 100 others.

According to Reuters, dual explosions rocked All Saints just as hundreds of parishioners were leaving the church. Almost immediately, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack.

"They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them," said Jundullah spokesman Ahmed Marwat. "We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land."

Some of the Christians — who compose only four percent of Pakistan's 180 million Sunni Muslims — burned tires in the streets of Peshawar to protest the lack of security around the church.

Similar protests by other Christians were also reported in Karachi and Multan.

UPDATE:

The New York Times reports that the death toll has now risen to 85 after two suicide bombers rushed the church doors as worshipers were leaving All Saints after service; one attacker exploded his vest inside the entrance, the other just outside.
“We didn’t carry out the church attack. However, we believe it’s according to the Sharia,” TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid told BBC in a telephonic interview from an anonymous location on Friday.
. . .
When asked who issues the orders for any attack, spokesperson said free hand has been given to all component groups to choose and attack the enemy targets but they can’t carry out an attack by deviating from the objective of the movement, adding if they do so, the are summoned and punished by Taliban courts. 83 people including five women and four children were killed and nearly 150 injured in twin suicide blasts on a historic church in Qissa Khawani bazaar in Peshawar on September 22.
Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians. Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men later stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’...
A Church of Scotland minister who lost his mother and other relatives in a suicide attack on a church in Pakistan has forgiven the killers and praised members of the Muslim community who tended to the victims.

Reverend Aftab Gohar will resume full duties at Abbotsgrange Church in Grangemouth on Sunday following his return from Pakistan, where has been paying respects to the deceased and comforting surviving relatives.
. . .
Rev Gohar said: "It is wrong what these people did but I forgive them. We pray that they may one day develop the wisdom to understand that it is not right to kill children and other innocent people.

"There were 125 children in Sunday school that day. My sister was teaching there. Forgiving is what we learn from the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why I forgive."

Mr Gohar travelled to his old family church after the attack which killed his mother Iqbal, 79, his 11-year-old nephew, his nine-year-old niece, two uncles, three cousins, two of his closest friends and many other friends and relatives.

His neice Farah Javed, 23, is paralysed from the waist down and needs treatment not available to her in a public hospital. The Gohar family has had to find considerable sums to pay for medical treatment for relatives...

Kenya: Muslim gunmen throw grenades and open fire at mall in Nairobi, which leaves at least 39 dead, 150 injured

AN unknown number of hostages are still being held by Islamist gunmen who are locked in a stand-off with security forces inside Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, the Kenyan government said early Sunday.

"Hostage numbers still unknown, but they are in several locations. No communication as yet. Upper levels (of the mall) have been secured," the government's National Disaster Operation Centre said in a situation update posted on Twitter.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said operations by security forces were continuing, 17 hours after the attack began and as dawn approached in the Kenyan capital.

Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, which Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said had left 39 dead and 150 more wounded.

"The work is continuing, but you cannot rush these things," an army officer posted on the perimeter cordon said. "Our teams are there, we are watching and monitoring, we will finish this as soon as we can."

Death toll rises in Kenya

Earlier today, Kenyan President Kenyatta gave a televised address to the nation about the tragedy which had claimed the lives of so many including several members of his own family.

He said Kenya had "overcome terrorist attacks before, and we will defeat them again," and told the nation he had also "personally lost family members in the Westgate attack".

"Our security forces are in the process of neutralising the attackers and securing the mall," he said, as security operations went on late into the night.

Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Shebab group said its fighters were behind the attack.

"They want to cause fear and despondency in our country, but we will not be cowed," Kenyatta said, adding:"Terrorism is a philosophy of cowards."

"I ask God to give you comfort. My government will provide the support needed in the days to come," he said. The death toll was expected to climb. Authorities still had not secured the mall when President Kenyatta spoke. There are unconfirmed reports on Twitter that several gunmen remain at large.

His televised address came after masked gunmen stormed the packed upmarket shopping mall in Nairobi. The rebels said the carnage was in direct retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia, where African Union troops are battling the Islamists.

"The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar (infidels) inside their own turf," the group said on Twitter.

The Shebab tweet said the group's warnings over Kenya's military presence in Somalia had been ignored. Shebab "on numerous occasions warned the Kenyan government that failure to remove its forces from Somalia would have severe consequences," it said.

"The Kenyan government, however, turned a deaf ear to our repeated warnings and continued to massacre innocent Muslims in Somalia #Westgate," the group tweeted via its @HSM_Press account. "The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders," it said.

Kenyan forces entered Somalia two years ago to fight the Shebab, and remain in the country as part of an African Union force that is supporting Somalia's internationally backed government.

Group's Twitter account suspended

The Twitter account of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab rebels has been suspended after they used the site to claim responsibility for the attack on the Nairobi shopping mall.
. . .
Gunmen told Muslims to leave Another al-Shabab tweet claimed that its fighters had killed 100 people in the attack, but President Kenyatta said 39 people had died in the attack and 150 had been wounded.

Two French citizens were killed the attack, the Elysee Palace said in a statement. President Francois Hollande "condemns the cowardly attack in the strongest terms and shares the pain of the family of our compatriots," said the statement.

One Kiwi has been injured in the attack with New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says one citizen was injured in the attack and is in a stable condition in hospital. There is no information at this stage to suggest any other New Zealanders have been caught up in the attack...
Update:
A rumor was spreading that the shooters would spare the lives of Muslims. Eran Ochayon, like most people at the mall, wasn’t Muslim. His friend, hiding elsewhere in the complex, sent him a text message. It was the shahada, an Islamic creed typically recited at daily prayers.

Ochayon, a Jewish businessman from Israel, scrawled the Arabic prayer on his hand in Latin script: ”I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except God, and Muhammad is his servant and messenger.” He repeated the line to himself as he hid inside a bank at the Westgate mall, where he was taking out money when the attack began.

The gunmen are believed to be connected to Somali militant group al Shabaab, which is tied to al Qaeda. Al Shabaab said it was taking revenge for Kenyan military action in Somalia. On Twitter the group said, “Only Kuffar were singled out for this attack,” using the derogatory term for non-Muslims.

Ochayon hid in the bank for four and a half hours as the militants made their way through the mall. ”I was very sure they were going to come in any moment,” he said at a nearby community center after police evacuated him.

Chrispinus Maloba saw at least 10 shooters. They were wearing balaclavas, ski masks covering all of their heads but their eyes.

One of them—he had a scarf tied around his head—fired an assault rifle into the store where Maloba is employed as a security guard. The man was shooting indiscriminately but didn’t hit anyone...
At least 59 people were killed and 175 injured in Saturday's attack on a Nairobi shopping centre, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

More than 1,000 people were brought out of the Westgate shopping centre and the rescue operation continues, Mr Kenyatta said at a news conference on Sunday.

Between 10 and 15 attackers - thought to be militants from the Somali al-Shabab movement - are still inside.

Some civilians are still trapped, either as hostages or in hiding.

At 17:00 GMT on Sunday, the Kenyan Red Cross said one hostage had recently been rescued, and the search and rescue operation was ongoing.

The BBC's Anne Soy, who is about 300m from the shopping centre, says increased gunfire has rung out over the past hour.

She says ambulances have been leaving the scene, as has a pick-up truck covered with blankets, suggesting that it may be carrying bodies.

'Appalling brutality'

"The criminals are now located in one place within the building," Mr Kenyatta said.

"With the professionals on site, we have as good a chance to neutralise the terrorists as we could hope for."

He thanked those who had helped with rescue and relief efforts, and asked other countries not to issue travel advisories against visiting Kenya.

Mr Kenyatta's nephew and his fiancee were among the dead, the president said.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that three Britons have been killed, and says the number is likely to rise.

French, Chinese, Ghanaian and Canadian citizens are also among the foreigners confirmed killed, along with a dual Australian-British national.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called it "an absolutely sickening and despicable attack of appalling brutality".

The Somali militant group al-Shabab says it carried out the attack in response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia.

There are about 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia, where they have been fighting the militants since 2011.

There is a heavy military presence both in and around the shopping centre.

Late on Sunday afternoon, a police helicopter and another with military camouflage swept low over the shopping centre.

There are reports that the gunmen are currently holed up in a supermarket. Mr Kenyatta said women were reported to be among the attackers but said this was unconfirmed.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says a security source told him that at least one of the attackers was a woman who appeared to have a leadership role.

'Watching and monitoring'

Kenyan officials said "major operations" were under way, with police and soldiers preparing an apparent bid to bring an end to the stand-off...
Four thunderous explosions rattled Nairobi's upscale mall Monday, part of a battle between Kenyan troops and al-Qaida-linked terrorists. Top Kenyan officials said two hostage takers, part of "a multinational collection from all over the world," had been killed.

Kenya's interior minister said the evacuation of hostages "has gone very, very well" and that Kenyan officials are "very certain" that there are few if any hostages left in the building.

Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku also revised the death toll to 62. Kenyan officials earlier said 59 people have died since the siege on Westgate Mall began on Saturday, while the Red Cross had put the toll at 68, then in a tweet lowered it to 62, saying some bodies had been counted twice.
. . .
Kenyan authorities said they would do their utmost to save hostages' lives, but no officials could say precisely how many people were being held captive. Kenya's Red Cross said in a statement, citing police, that 49 people had been reported missing. Officials did not make an explicit link but that number could give an indication of the number of people held captive.

Al-Shabab said the attack, targeting non-Muslims, was in retribution for Kenyan forces' 2011 push into neighboring Somalia.
Kenyan forces have brought more people out overnight from the shopping mall where Islamist militants are holding hostages, and troops are "closing in" on the attackers, the police inspector general, David Kimaiyo, said on Monday, the third day of the siege.

He said Kenyan security forces had "rescued more hostages" but made no mention in his Twitter comment about engaging with the militants.

Heavy and sustained gunfire was heard at the Nairobi shopping mall where at least 69 people were killed by a Somali Islamist group, a Reuters witness reported on Monday, suggesting an assault by Kenyan security forces.

As the siege entered its third day, a Reuters witness at the scene heard heavy and sustained gunfire for about five minutes. The blast of gunfire was followed by a lull, and then a series of small, sporadic explosions occurred.

Kenya's military had earlier said on its Twitter feed that it was making every effort to bring the siege "to a speedy conclusion."

Somali Islamist group al-Shabab said hostages held by militants holed up in a Nairobi shopping mall would be killed if force was used, according to an audio statement carried by a website linked to the group.

"Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate [mall] by force but they could not, the mujahideen [fighters] will kill the hostages if the enemies use force," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shabab's spokesman said in clip posted online.

On Sunday night, Oguna said there had been an operation under way since early on Sunday. Troops stormed the upmarket Westgate mall at lunchtime on Saturday. Oguna said most of those trapped in the complex were free.

"Most of the hostages have been released, and the Kenya Defence Forces has taken control of most parts of the building," Oguna told local station KTN, giving no details. He told Britain's Sky News late on Sunday: "A large number of hostages have been rescued since this morning."

He made no mention of killing or capturing militants, but said commanders hoped to end the operation "very, very soon". Reuters journalists outside the mall heard only very occasional gunfire and an explosion. There was no clear word on the fate of people said to be held by a dozen or so gunmen in a supermarket...
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the end of a bloody four-day siege by Islamist militants at Nairobi's Westgate shopping centre.

Five attackers were shot dead by troops and 11 suspects were in custody, he said in a TV address to the nation.

Kenya has "shamed and defeated our attackers" but the "losses are immense", he said, confirming that 61 civilians and six soldiers had died.

Three days of national mourning have been declared, starting on Wednesday.

As the clearing of the mall continues, Kenya is braced for the death toll to rise further.

Several bodies - including those of "terrorists" - are thought to be trapped under rubble after three floors of the building collapsed following a blaze on Monday, officials said.

Some 175 people were injured in the attack; 62 people remain in hospital and many others are being treated for shock and are undergoing counselling.
. . .
The president said he could not confirm reports that a British national and two or three US citizens were involved in the attacks, but he said forensic experts were carrying out tests to ascertain their nationalities.
Although there is no evidence which proves Lewthwaite was involved in the horrific attacks in Nairobi which left dozens dead, Kenya's foreign minister has said a British woman was among the Islamist assailants.

And yesterday a woman who was inside the shopping centre said she locked eyes with an AK-47-wielding ‘pale-skinned woman’ with long dark hair – the same as British Muslim convert Lewthwaite – as she opened fire from a balcony.

Amazingly, the woman, who gave her name only as Caroline, escaped unharmed as Islamists stormed the Westgate shopping centre.

She said: ‘She was high up but not far from me, close enough that I saw her looking along the floor where I was until she saw me.

‘She stopped and aimed at me and then opened fire. All of the bullets did not hit me, I don’t know how that happened.

‘She stopped firing at me for a moment and looked away and I jumped up and ran around a corner and that’s how I escaped.

‘She had pale skin and long black hair, and was wearing a baggy black top. I can’t remember very much, but I remember she had pale skin.’

A senior Kenyan anti-terror officer last night revealed that police had received many witness accounts of a female attacker resembling the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay.

He added: ‘We believe that she was involved in the attack. We cannot doubt the eyewitnesses who say they saw her commanding the attackers.’

Kenya foreign minister Amina Mohamed added: ‘The Briton was a woman... who has done this many times before.’

A Twitter account thought to belong to the militant group al-Shabaab, which tweeted their cruel attack, also claimed that Lewthwaite ‘commanded’ the attack.

A post said: ‘We have received permission to disclose the involvement of Samantha Lewthwaite aka sherafiyah [her Islamic name], she successfully overseered [sic] the mission.’...
Soldiers told of the horrific torture meted out by terrorists in the Nairobi mall massacre yesterday with claims hostages were dismembered, had their eyes gouged out and were left hanging from hooks in the ceiling.

Men were said to have been castrated and had fingers removed with pliers before being blinded and hanged.

Children were found dead in the food court fridges with knives still embedded in their bodies, it was claimed.

Most of the defeated terrorists, meanwhile, were reportedly discovered ‘burnt to ashes’, set alight by the last extremist standing to try to protect their identities.

The horrifying details came yesterday as the first pictures emerged from within the wreckage of the building, showing piles of bodies left strewn across the floor.

A third of the mall was destroyed in the battle between terrorists and Kenyan troops.

Lying in the rubble are feared to be the bodies of as many as 71 civilians who have been declared missing by the Kenyan Red Cross.
. . .
Yesterday, soldiers and doctors who were among the first people into the mall after it was reclaimed on Tuesday, spoke of the horrifying scenes inside.

‘You find people with hooks hanging from the roof,’ said one Kenyan doctor, who asked not to be named.

‘They removed eyes, ears, nose. They get your hand and sharpen it like a pencil then they tell you to write your name with the blood. They drive knives inside a child’s body.

'Actually if you look at all the bodies, unless those ones that were escaping, fingers are cut by pliers, the noses are ripped by pliers. Here it was pain.’

A soldier, who took pictures at a bread counter and at the ArtCaffe, said he was so traumatised by what he saw he has had to seek counselling...
The al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for last week’s attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, in which at least 67 people died, with 39 more listed as missing by the Red Cross.

“We will strike Kenyans where it hurts the most, turn their cities into graveyards and rivers of blood will flow in Nairobi,” al-Shabaab said in a recent statement.

“The Kenyan government’s decision to keep its invading force in Somalia is an indication that they haven’t yet learnt any valuable lessons from the Westgate attacks,” the extremists added, warning that Kenya was

“inviting unprecedented levels of insecurity, bloodshed and destruction.”

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday said troops had been sent to Somalia to restore order to their neighbor and would remain there until this was achieved...
A Norwegian citizen has tonight been named as a suspect in the terror attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Kenya.

Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, 23, is said to have left his home in the coastal town of Larvik, 75 miles south of Oslo, for Somalia in 2009 and taken part in the attack by the militant group, al-Shabab, on the shopping centre last month, which left 67 dead.
. . .
In the video obtained by CNN, one man can be seen hiding behind a supermarket kiosk as the gunmen storm the mall. As shoppers run for their lives, a terrorist casually approaches the cowering man and fires a bullet into his body from close-range.

In the next clip the man is seen writhing in agony, before a third scene captures him lying in a pool of his own blood as the gunman returns and fires more shots at him. It is believed the man died as a result of his injuries.

Elsewhere in the CCTV footage, a British family - including a four-year-old boy who famously told one of the terrorists he was “a very bad man” - can be seen being told to leave the supermarket by one of the gunmen.

As the mother - who had already been shot in the thigh by a terrorist - leads her children from the store using a shopping trolley to carry one of her injured offspring, she is seen being followed by a terrified, blood-soaked teenage girl, and finally by one of the gunmen...

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood supporter tries to set co-worker on fire over pro-army ringtone on her mobile phone

An Egyptian Islamist has attempted to set his fellow employee on fire after she angered him by programming a pro-army ringtone in her mobile phone, said police on Saturday.

The suspect, a follower of the Muslim Brotherhood to which the ousted president Mohammad Mursi belongs, frequently scolded his workmate at a pharmaceutical company in the coastal city of Alexandria for using the ringtone inspired by a popular song that praises the army, who deposed the Islamist leader in July.

The 23-year-old woman reported to the police that her colleague, a salesman, had insulted her before throwing petrol at her in a bid to torch her, the online edition of state-run newspaper Al Ahram reported.

The woman’s account was backed up by two witnesses, according to the report. Police also seized three petrol bottles, a knife and a paper cutter inside the suspected assailant’s car...

ADL calls for removal of promotional messages showing Hitler praising a Saudi-owned satellite network’s programming

For more on Islamic Nazism, click here.

“This offensive and outrageous campaign trivializes the Holocaust by turning Hitler into a cartoonish poster child,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman.

“Perhaps someone thought all of this was funny, but one wonders how it will play across the Arab World, where there is scant education about the murder of six million Jews and millions of others by Hitler and the Nazis and where Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are rampant.

"Why would a Saudi media outlet want to associate itself with one of history’s most demonic mass murderers?”

The ad campaign for MBC Action, which is based in Dubai, features clips from the 2009 Quentin Tarantino film “Inglourious Basterds,” where the Nazi dictator is shown speaking in a room to other Nazi officials.

Arabic subtitles inserted under the images focus on the television network’s new programming in September. Hitler is made to say, “Look at the achievements of MBC Action. They will control the entire region. They are preparing for a campaign called ‘September to Remember.’”...

Israel: Palestinian kidnaps and murders Israeli soldier to exchange the body for his brother, jailed in the Jewish state

An army spokesman said the soldier “was kidnapped and killed by a Palestinian near Qalqiliya yesterday (Friday) and his body was found” on Saturday.

An AFP correspondent said his body was evacuated by helicopter on Saturday afternoon, following an overnight search.

The victim, who was not identified, was serving in the army but was on a weekend pass and knew the Palestinian, having worked with him at a restaurant south of Tel Aviv, the Shin Bet security agency said.

Shin Bet said it arrested the Palestinian suspect, 42-year-old Nidal Amer, at his family home in Beit Amin south of Qalqiliya, and that he had confessed to killing the soldier.

The suspect said he had abducted and killed him in the hope that he could “trade the body in exchange for the release” of one of his brothers who has been jailed by Israel sin 2003 in connection with several attacks, Shin Bet said in a statement.

“An investigation is under way and is expected to lead to the arrest of other individuals who took part in the incident,” Shin Bet said, adding that another of Amer's brothers was also arrested on Saturday.

According to Shin Bet the soldier agreed to share a taxi on Friday with Amer.

“Nidal confessed that he took the soldier to a deserted area... then killed him and hid his body in a well,” Shin Bet said.

It did not say how Amer killed the soldier or how he persuaded him to accompany him to the West Bank...

Pakistan: A woman shot dead by brother and two accomplices for 'illicit relations with a neighbor'

For more on honor related violence, click here.

Sub Inspector Jaam Manzoor Hussain said he found the body of the woman in Fita Katta, when he was patrolling in the area. He said the brother of the deceased believed that his sister had had illicit relations with a neighbour. He said the suspects had gone missing. The body of the deceased had been sent to a hospital for an autopsy, the SI added.

UK: Muslim convert 'planned to assassinate Prince Harry with pistol at close range'

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

A Muslim convert planned to assassinate Prince Harry using a low-calibre pistol in a plot he named Operation Regal, a court heard today.

Ashraf Islam, 31, formerly known as Mark Townley, confessed to police he had “advanced plans” to kill the Prince.

Belfast-born Islam walked into a police station the day after Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich, south-east London, and told an officer of his intentions.

Islam described Drummer Rigby as a “soft target” and said he didn’t agree with the attack on the serviceman.

He eventually revealed he intended to kill Prince Harry because the third in line to the throne “had blood on his hands”.

A document found on Islam’s computer said: “Aim for target. No civilians to be injured.

"Dress code is the the biker look. Use low-calibre pistol at close range. Not to be viewed as Islamist extremist.”

Islam, who changed his name by deed poll in 2010, arrived in the UK from Thailand the day before his arrest.

Prosecutor Lynne Townley told Isleworth Crown Court: “He said he has been watching the Horse Guards Parade and planned to disarm an officer whilst disguised as a tourist rather than bringing a gun into London.

“He spent 10 days in Thailand searching Prince Harry and his whereabouts.

"He used his time in Thailand to get his fitness to a higher level. He planned to send a phone warning to create a diversion.”

Miss Townley explained Islam, after landing at Heathrow, checked into a Travelodge and at 11am the following morning went to Hounslow police station in west London.

“He told duty officer PC Boyne that he wanted to talk about a murder. Miss Townley added: “He said he was being monitored by UK security.

“He was asked for further details of what these plans were and he said it was the murder of a high-profile person.”

Islam, who is separated from his wife and young child back in Northern Ireland, decided to confess after feeling “scared and nervous” on the morning of May 23.

He said he believed hurting people was wrong but “Prince Harry had chosen his path and had blood on his hands for power and profit”.

He pleaded guilty at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court to one count of making a threat to kill on May 25.

After analysing his laptop, police discovered a number of internet searches showing Islam had been researching Prince Harry’s protection team, his engagements and his general whereabouts.

A video showed him making threats to kill Prince Harry to camera whilst he was in Malaysia.

Islam’s sentencing has been adjourned until November 1 so a mental health assessment can be completed.

Tunisia: Girls return home pregnant after ‘sexual jihad’ in Syria for western-backed rebels

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

A number of Tunisian girls who had travelled to Syria to perform “sexual jihad” there have returned back home pregnant, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Bin Jeddo said on Thursday.

The Tunisian girls “are (sexually) swapped between 20, 30, and 100 rebels and they come back bearing the fruit of sexual contacts in the name of sexual jihad and we are silent doing nothing and standing idle,” the non-partisan minister said during an address to the National Constituent Assembly.

Bin Jeddo said the interior ministry has banned 6,000 Tunisians from travelling to Syria since March 2013 and arrested 86 individuals suspected of forming “networks” that send Tunisian youth for “jihad” to Syria.

The minister hit back at human rights groups criticizing the government’s decision to ban suspected “jihadists” from travel. Most of those slapped with travel bans were less than 35 years old, he said.

“Our youths are positioned in the frontlines and are taught how to steal and raid (Syrian) villages,” Bin Jeddo said.

Former Mufti of Tunisia Sheikh Othman Battikh said in April that 13 Tunisian girls “were fooled” into travelling to Syria to offer their sexual services to rebels fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad...

Nigeria: Heavily armed Muslims laid siege on Benisheik, killing people and setting buildings ablaze, death toll at 161

Environmental officers yesterday recovered 87 more corpses of travelers killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen during an attack on Maiduguri-Damaturu road near Benisheik town in Borno State on Tuesday.

This was in addition to 55 bodies earlier picked up on Wednesday, officials of the Borno State Environmental Protection Agency (BOSEPA) told journalists during a visit by Governor Kashim Shettima to the scene of the violence.

Heavily armed insurgents laid siege on Benisheik, Kaga Local Government Area on Tuesday evening, killing people and setting buildings ablaze.

They also blocked the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, three kilometers away from the town, sorting out and slaughtering dozens of travelers.

Apart from the 142 travellers, also killed in the attack were 2 soldiers, 3 policemen and 14 villagers,bringing the total death toll to 161.

Turkey: World-renowned pianist again sentenced to 10 months in a retrial over 'insulting religious beliefs'

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazil Say, who was sentenced to 10 months in prison for blasphemy in April, was again sentenced to 10 months by an Istanbul court today in a retrial, Hurriyet online reports quoting Dogan News Agency.

Say had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence on charges of "insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society," for re-tweeting several lines, which are attributed to poet Omar Khayyam. Say's lawyers had demanded his suspension be canceled. His demand had been accepted by the court, and the court had paved the way for Say to be re-tried.

The 19th Istanbul Peace Court sentenced Say to 10 months in prison but since Say has no criminal record, the court suspended the sentence and ordered supervised liberty. If Say does not commit another crime within two years, the case will be dropped. Say was found guilty of 'insulting religious values' under article 216 of the Turkish criminal code for a few tweets in which he joked about the hasty call to prayer of a muezzin at a mosque in Istanbul - '22 seconds ..: why such a hurry? A lover? Raki (Turkish anisette)?'. And on Islamic heaven he quoted a great Persian poet from 1100, Omar Khayyam: 'You say rivers of wine flow in Paradise: Is it a celestial pub? And that two virgins are awaiting every believer, is Paradise a celestial brothel?'.

Three Islamic activists reported Say who was subsequently indicted by prosecutors in Istanbul...

UK: Female teachers at Islamic school made to sign contract agreeing to wear the hijab even if they're not Muslim

For more on Islam's views and laws concerning women, click here.

Teachers at an Islamic school have complained that they are being ordered to wear the hijab – even if they are not Muslim.

Employees at the Al-Madinah free school say they are ‘concerned’ by its practices, which include banning non-halal food and forcing female pupils as young as four to sit at the back of the class away from boys.

Female members of staff, some of whom are not Muslims, say they have been told to sign new contracts which force them to wear the hijab.

These also ban them from wearing jewellery or bringing non-halal food on to the school’s premises in Derby.

One woman, who had been interviewed for a position, claimed she was told she was not allowed to shake hands with male teachers to avoid ‘insult’.

Another staff member, speaking anonymously to the Mail, said the school was ‘like being in Pakistan’.

She said: ‘Girls are treated very separately from boys, the girls sit at the back of the classroom.

‘Boys go and eat first at lunchtime and then the girls are allowed to go.

‘It is like being in any school in Pakistan. That is why it was founded, that is the idea.’

The decision to make all female members of staff, regardless of religious beliefs, wear the Islamic headscarf – which covers the head but not the face – was apparently introduced over the summer.

But some female members of staff have been spotted removing the headwear immediately after stepping out of the school building during their lunch hour.

And around half a dozen teachers at the free school, who could face losing their jobs if they refuse to comply with the rules, are now seeking legal advice from the National Union of Teachers.

‘There are worries over practices concerning the discrimination between male and female pupils in the school, with the girls being told to sit at the back of the class regardless of whether they can see the board properly.'

He added: ‘It’s one thing to have a dress code which we can challenge and quite another to build it into a contract...

Indonesia: British Miss World contestants warned of violent threats from Muslims after protests over ‘pornographic’ contest

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

British contestants have been warned of violent threats from Islamic extremists during this year’s Miss World contest in Indonesia.

The British, US and Australian Embassies in Jakarta have warned the contestants that extremist groups may be planning to use violence to disrupt the pageant, which is running until September 28.

The competition was moved from the capital on Java where the majority of residents are Muslim to Bali.

The British Embassy warned:‘local Islamist vigilante groups have threatened to hold large-scale demonstrations to disrupt the Miss World pageant.’

'Extremist groups may also be planning to attack the event'.

Britain is represented by three contestants - Kirsty Heslewood from England, Gabrielle Shaw from Wales and Meagan Green from Northern Ireland.

Extra security has been brought in to guard the venue in the Noosa Dua region of the holiday island following weeks of protest which denounced the competition as 'pornography'.

Despite the demonstrations a beauty contest for Muslim women has been held peacefully in Bali, with 21-year-old Miss Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola from Nigeria, being declared the winner...

Turkey bans gay and bisexual male dating website as a "protective measure" following ruling by an Istanbul court

For more on persecution of homosexuals, click here.

Gay and bisexual male dating website Grindr has been banned by Turkey's Directorate of Telecommunication (TIB) as a "protective measure" following a ruling by an Istanbul court, as daily Hurriyet online reports today. Both the Grindr website and the mobile application have become inaccessible since the TIB implemented the decision of the 14th Criminal Court of Istanbul. The application can still be downloaded from the application store, but it is not properly accessible. Hayriye Kara, a lawyer for KAOS GL, an LGBT association based in Ankara, said the court's decision was not published online, ultimately meaning that the reason for the censorship remains unknown. The media coordinator for the association, Omer Akpinar, has slammed the government, calling the ban an "arbitrary limitation of freedom." An online petition has been launched demanding Turkey repeal the order of the court blocking Grindr. Osman Nihat Sen, deputy director of the TIB, rejected claims in a recent interview with daily Haberturk that the authority applies a blanket ban on LGBT websites while refusing to elaborate on the reasons for the censorship.

Syria: Roadside bomb killed at least 14 members of President Bashar Assad's minority Alawite in Homs

The blast targeted two buses near the Alawite village of Jabourin, 13 km (8 miles) north of Homs city, said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Alawites are an offshoot sect of Shiite Islam who mostly support Assad and have been increasingly targeted by hardliner fighters among the Sunni Muslim-dominated opposition in the 2-1/2 year revolt against the president.

The northern suburbs of Homs, which Assad's forces consider vital to securing their hold from Damascus to the president's coastal Alawite stronghold, have suffered heavy shelling and clashes between government forces and rebel fighters for several months.

Citing a source in a local military hospital, Abdelrahman told Reuters that nine of the victims in Thursday's explosion were civilians while the others may have belonged to the National Defence Forces, a loyalist paramilitary group.

He said that clashes broke out between rebel fighters and members of the NDF after the explosion. The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources across Syria, cited activists and residents in its report.

Sectarian violence has increasingly overtaken a conflict that began as peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule.

Syria's Sunni Muslim majority has largely supported the uprising and Islamist groups among the rebels have increasingly threatened Alawites in retaliation for the killing of Sunnis. Meanwhile, Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Shiite militia from Iraq have sent men to fight alongside Assad's forces, angering Sunnis across the region.

Al-Qaeda on Turkish border

Turkey has closed one of its border gates to Syria after an al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel group clashed with units of the Arab- and Western-backed Free Syrian Army in the Syrian town of Azaz near the Turkish frontier, a Turkish official said on Thursday...

Indonesia: Nigerian contestant has been crowned the winner of a Muslim-only beauty pageant

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, 21, won the World Muslimah 2013 title on Wednesday.

Twenty finalists showed off Islamic fashions and worked to demonstrate religious values during the contest.

The pageant was held before the upcoming Miss World competition, which has drawn protests from hardline Indonesian Muslim groups.

Finalists in World Muslimah were chosen from more than 500 who took part in an online selection process.

One of the rounds involved contenders comparing stories of how they came to wear the hijab (Muslim headscarf) - a requirement for all those taking part.

The finalists hailed from countries including Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Brunei.

In the run-up to the final, contestants underwent three days of "spiritual training", waking before dawn to pray together and to study the Koran.

Ms Ajibola, 21, cried and recited a verse from the Koran when her name was called as the winner. She was awarded 25m rupiah ($2,200, £1,360) and trips to Mecca and India.

She had said in an interview before she won that she was just trying "to show the world that Islam is beautiful".

Eka Shanti, who lost her job as a TV news presenter for refusing to remove her headscarf, started the pageant three years ago...

Egypt: Under military protection, Christians in Dalga fear Islamist backlash

Islamic militants on motorbikes drive by Sameer Hanna Tanyous's home in this southern Egyptian town and make a chilling gesture — running their fingers across their throats. Others, he says, shout warnings that security forces won't be there forever to protect him and other Christians.

This week, a large contingent of troops and police rolled into Dalga, backed by helicopter gunships, breaking the hold of Islamist hard-liners who seized control of the town of 120,000 in early July in a spasm of violence after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. Their grip terrorized the town's Christians, as hard-liners torched and looted their homes, businesses and churches.

But the relief felt by the town's estimated 20,000 Christians was short-lived. They fear the troops will stay only long enough to make some arrests — and once they're gone, the backlash from militants against them will be even worse.
. . .
Egypt's Christians have long complained of discrimination, but their situation dramatically worsened during Morsi's year in office, when Islamists became bolder in imposing their views. After the military ousted Morsi on July 3, his hard-line supporters unleashed a backlash of violence that largely targeted Christians, whom they accused of pushing for his removal. Christian homes and businesses around the country were attacked, particularly in provinces of the south, like Minya, where Dalga is located.

Security forces that retook control of Dalga on Monday have detained at least 130 militants. Troops backed by armored fighting vehicles check cars and pedestrians entering and leaving town, while policemen in pickup trucks cruise the streets.

The forces have been raiding homes searching for suspected militants and at times fire in the air or use tear gas to disperse pro-Morsi protests. The local police station is now home to a half dozen police generals and hundreds of policemen, with police in full riot gear milling around.
. . .
For Dalga's Christians, two months under Islamist control felt like being thrown back centuries into a rule where they were relegated to a rights-less status.

The town, 270 kilometers (160 miles) south of Cairo, saw no major sectarian violence for decades, residents said. But in recent years, its Muslims grew more conservative, and a radical Islamist presence began to grow.

After Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first freely elected president in June 2012, "many of the Muslims began to behave arrogantly. They acted like every one of them was Morsi himself," said Father Abraam, a Coptic priest. Police complaints by Christians against Muslims in routine disputes were ignored by police, he said.

"Every time we filed a complaint, we were told to go and work it out with the Muslim party," he said.

After Morsi's fall, mobs of hard-liners, many believed to belong to the Brotherhood and the Gamaa Islamiya — which waged an armed insurgency in the 1990s — along with gangs of local criminals, drove out the town's police.

Nearly 40 Christian homes and stores were attacked in violence that accelerated after security forces launched a bloody crackdown on pro-Morsi protests in Cairo in mid-August. Dalga's only Catholic church was ransacked and set ablaze along with the Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary and St. Abraam. The Anglican church was looted.

Gunmen repeatedly fended off police and troops trying to reenter Dalga. Christian families that remained paid armed Muslims for protection — something the Christians compared to "jizya," a tax on non-Muslims that is allowed under Shariah, or Islamic law, but has long been abandoned.

Some 50 Christian families fled Dalga, and none is thought to have come back.
. . .
"We are still frightened and worried that they will come back," said Hanna Khalil, a 48-year-old mother of five.

When her house was torched in August, Khalil sent three of her children to relatives in Cairo, then moved with her two others and her husband into a Muslim-owned house in Dalga. A week ago, she moved in with relatives, bringing along Mabrouka, a cow that her husband rescued from their home before the mob burned it.

Khalil said she has little faith el-Sissi would go out of his way to help Christians.

"All we want is security," she said. "Justice is sweet and that is what I want for myself and my family."

France: Soldier threatened and attacked in street twice, told not to act against the jihadists in Mali

The victim wasn't wearing his uniform. According to this 22-year-old man, it was indeed because of his profession that he was attacked violently, however, twice, in the La Source district.

He told police that he preferred to keep quiet about his job for fear of being insulted when he went back to visit his parents, in the district of La Source. However, this soldier was violently attacked at the foot of his parents' building on 27 August. On that day, a neighbour, knowing his profession, reproached him with "defending the interests of France in Mali", recalls an investigator. Adding actions to words, he struck the soldier on the head with his car keys, a wound that required five stitches. The attacker also struck his own sister who tried to intervene. End of the first act.

Thursday, 2 pm. The same soldier again became the target of the same man while he was waiting patiently at a tram stop in the La Source district. Kicks, punches: the attacker is said to have threatened to kill the soldier, telling him "that he had no business intervening against the jihadists".

This time the man was arrested by the police, in the wake of the incident. He offered a blanket denial but the CCTV of the operating company allowed the police in La Source to confirm that blows were indeed struck against the soldier.

Aged 29, born in Libya and a citizen of Chad, the attacker ended up admitting the altercation but not the circumstances in which it unfolded. According to him, it was because the soldier got a bit too close to his sister that he came to blows with him. And not for geopolitical reasons. "He disputes the version of the victims and claims it was family-related," confirmed a source in the Orléans prosecutor's office.

UK: Islamic schools forcing girls as young as 11 to wear burkas or full-face veils as part of their school uniform

Islamic schools in Britain are forcing girls as young as 11 to wear burkas or full-face veils as part of their school uniform. The Madani Girls’ School in Tower Hamlets, East London, requires all pupils to wear a black burka and a long a black coat outside the school. It also tells girls to wear headscarves during lessons and says its strict uniform policy is the “desired dress code of a Muslim female”...

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters forcing 15,000 Coptic Christian of Dalga village to pay jizyah

For more on Jizyah, click here.

Now that the attacks on Egypt’s Christian churches have subsided, stage two of the jihad — profiting from the fear and terror caused by stage one — is setting in: reports are arriving that the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are forcing the roughly 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village in south Minya province to pay jizya — the money, or tribute, that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords “with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued” to safeguard their existence, as indicated in Koran 9:29.

According to one priest from the area, all Copts in the village, “without exception,” are being forced to pay tribute, just as their forefathers did nearly 1400 years ago when the sword of Islam originally invaded Christian Egypt. He said that the “value of the tribute and method of payment differ from one place to another in the village, so that, some are being expected to pay 200 Egyptian pounds per day, others 500 Egyptian pounds per day…”

In some cases, those not able to pay have been attacked, their wives and children beaten and/or kidnapped. As a result, some 40 Christian families have now fled Dalga, becoming displaced.

It’s the same in Syria and Iraq. ”Rebels” recently went to a Christian man’s “shop and gave him three options: become Muslim; pay $70,000 as a tax levied on non-Muslims, known as jizya; or be killed along with his family…. Androus from Mosul, Iraq, and another member of Father Raymond’s congregation, says he received a similar demand via telephone. ‘Because you are infidels, you have to pay jizya,’ he recalled being told over the phone. ‘Either you pay jizya, or we will kill you or your son.’”

Collecting jizya from non-Muslims was interrupted in the 19th century, thanks to European intervention. Today, the jizya and other injustices against Mideast Christians — in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq — have returned precisely thanks to Western intervention, in this case, U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its jihadi offshoots.

Bangladesh: Deputy secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, the 'butcher' of Mirpur, sentenced to death

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh sentenced to death Abdul Quader Mollah, deputy secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami (the first Islamic party in the country), for crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh's war of liberation from Pakistan in 1971.

When verdict was read, many of his supporters staged violent protests in Chittagong. In the ensuing clashes, two policemen were injured. Since then, tensions continue to run high.

Mollah, 65, is accused of having planned a series of executions, including the massacre of Mirpur (a Dhaka district), which earned him the nickname of koshai, the "butcher".

An international tribunal had sentenced him to life imprisonment on the same charges last February.

Mollah challenged the verdict in appeal to the Supreme Court, which, however, upheld the conviction and increased the sentence.

His sentence seven months ago sparked anger among supporters of the Islamist party. This resulted in violent protests that intensified after the 'international' war tribunal set up by the ruling party Awami League sentenced to death other Jamaat leaders.

Since then, party militants have also organised general strikes (hartal) on a semi-regular basis, which often degenerate into vandalism and clashes with the police.

Iraq: More than 5,000 civilian deaths recorded since January, making it the bloodiest year since 2007

As a result of car bombs in seven cities yesterday, Iraq's death toll rose this year to 5,612 after only eight and a half months, making it the bloodiest year since 2007.

"People are unwilling to forgive or turn the page," Chaldean Patriarch, Mar Raphael Louis Sako told AsiaNews. "Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Arabs . . . everything is fragmenting and moving towards confessionalism."

With the Syrian emergency casting a big shadow, the recent wave of religious violence in Iraq has killed more than 3,000 people this summer.

With an average of 36 civilian casualties per day, September is going to be the bloodiest month in five years. Yesterday, 11 different attacks across the country caused 67 deaths.

According to iraqbodycount, web-based effort to record civilian deaths, the toll of ten years of instability ranges between 114,000 and 125,000 civilian dead.

The US withdrawal in 2011, and the subsequent transfer of power to Shia-dominated Iraqi Shiite authorities has made matters worse, rekindling religious hatred by the Sunni minority.

In addition to that, the conflict in neighbouring Syria, with its sectarian connotations, has contributed to fresh violence among Iraqi religious groups.
. . .
Even Christian MP Yonadam Kanna, a leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, told AsiaNews that "the violence in the country, especially in Baghdad, is a direct reflection of the sectarian conflict that is taking place in Syria, as well as the Iraqi component of a wider conflict between Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and the Shia axis Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah."...

Denmark: Iranian artist convicted for violating country's racism statute by criticizing Islam

For more on Islam and free speech, click here.

Islam leads to more rapes and many Muslim daughters are killed by their relatives - for that statement the Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan, 31, has now been convicted by a court in Denmark, reports Jyllands-Posten.

Firoozeh Bazrafkan quoted on her blog another man who wrote, among other things, that "I am very sure that Muslim men extensively beat, rape and kill their daughters worldwide."

She has now been fined in the Court of Appeals for violating Denmark's so-called racism statute. The lower court had acquitted her.

"Why punish an artist who holds something up for debate when others who threatened my life escape punishment?," said Bazkrafkan to Jyllands-Posten.

The fine has not yet been determined. [tn: actually it has now, it's 5 x 1000 kroner] and if she does not pay she spends five days in jail - something she prefers.

"It's a question of principle. I'd rather go to jail than pay the fine," she says.

US: Bosnian Muslim congregation sue after permission to convert a vacant office building into a mosque was denied

The American Islamic Center claims in the suit that aldermen violated its constitutional rights by refusing to rezone an industrial park to accommodate a mosque.

"We are not happy that we have to file this lawsuit," said Imam Senad Agic. "We are hoping the City Council of Des Plaines would understand our religious needs."

But aldermen say allowing any house of worship in an industrial park would endanger pedestrians and impede neighboring manufacturers.

"I don't care if they're Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, whatever. It's not zoned for that particular area," said Ald. Mark Walsten, who was named in the suit because he voted against an amendment to accommodate the mosque. "Whenever there are children involved in an industrial area, I will not have that on my conscience."

Members of the American Islamic Center, who have rented space in a Rolling Meadows mosque since March 2011, had hoped to purchase the vacant building, formerly occupied by an insurance company. Many of the center's 160 members fled Bosnia in the 1990s to escape war and genocide.
. . .
Leaders presented Des Plaines officials with detailed proposals regarding the planned use of the property, including prayer services, interfaith activities and Saturday religious education classes. They also presented officials with traffic studies that suggested Birchwood Avenue has adequate capacity to accommodate the center's activities.

The Des Plaines Plan Commission unanimously recommended a zoning amendment to accommodate the center. But in July, the City Council voted down the proposed amendment.

The lawsuit alleges that Des Plaines violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act by imposing a substantial burden on the center's religious freedom and by discriminating against the religious institution based on its Muslim affiliation.

Scott Luedke, plant manager of Pexco, a plastics company across the street from the proposed mosque, said his opposition to the mosque has nothing to do with the group's tenets. But he said trucks are hauling away goods on a deadline most Fridays, when the mosque would draw the highest volume of traffic for weekly congregational prayers.

"It's unfortunate because I think they're trying to use things to their advantage that really have no grounds," Luedke said.
. . .
Luke Goodrich, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who represented an embattled mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in 2010, said minority groups tend to face more difficulties in zoning disputes. He pointed to a Department of Justice analysis of federal cases 10 years after the passage of the federal religious land-use act that showed 64 percent of complaints involved religious or racial minorities.

"It's not always overt hostility toward minorities," he said. "It could just be indifference."

Egypt: Facebook photo of a boy and a girl in a headscarf kissing sparks scandal

Egyptian activist Ahmed El-Gohary spoke to ANSA on Monday about a photo of a boy and a girl in a headscarf kissing, for which he has come in for criticism. The human rights defender, 38 years old and working with one of the country's largest NGOs, said that he had shared the photo on Facebook with a non-Egyptian friend, with whom I was exchanging views on social rights in Egypt, and now I wonder why this photo - which I liked a lot - has sparked all this debate, he said. The photo has made him a household name and shows the couple kissing against a background of graffiti. The photographer is unknown. Even my friends have forgotten all the country's problems and simply focused on this photo, which just shows a kiss, he said. They refuse to understand that this is personal freedom that they are violating. Even if the girl is wearing a headscarf, she has every right to express her feelings however she wants, Ahmed said, criticising the insults posted on his Facebook page. You've got to delete this photo, because you are a Muslim, and you must be punished, Congratulations, you've lost all your sense of a true man, jealous of his own religion and I do not want to be your friend so long as this photo is on your Facebook page are some of the comments - though the photo also garnered eighty-some likes. Even my own freedom to post a photo that I like very much has been violated by all manner of insults and criticism, the activist said, who noted that these reactions bode ill for the country in general. Unfortunately, after such an important revolution like ours, the people - and even educated people - still have this mentality: kisses in the street are to be incriminated, but when young people die in the same streets no one reacts..... Individual freedoms have been entirely violated both by Islamists, who are incessantly rummaging among our feelings, and by those governing now, with special laws that protect only power. I am pessimistic both about the future of respect for human rights and an exit from the current crisis, which the country is plunging deeper into every day, he underscored. Egypt is experiencing large-scale defeat and no one knows how we will get out of it.

UK: Muslim family's fury after supermarket sold a vegetarian pasty which mistakenly had meat, then offered bottle of champagne as an apology

The blundering supermarket sold the meat product - which is banned in Muslim culture - then apologised by offering them a bottle of alcohol, which they are not allowed to drink.

The devout Khan family was 'highly insulted' by Morrisons supermarket over the meat and alcohol double offence to their culture and religion.

The three cheese and onion pasties were bought for little Yousuf Khan, three, from the store on special offer for 57p.

But Yousuf tucked into his favourite pastie before his parents spotted it contained large amounts of non-halal minced beef.

His father rang the branch of Morrisons in Cardiff Bay where the manager apologised - and caused further insult by offering them a free bottle of alcoholic bubbly in compensation.

Angry garage worker Mr Khan, 28, said: 'It is ridiculous and ignorant of our faith - not just once but twice.

'Firstly they should be far more careful with how they label their products, especially when it could contain meat.

'But then it is completely wrong of the manager to then give us champagne when Muslims don’t drink alcohol.

'I feel highly insulted. I don’t want this happening to any other people who are Muslim.'

Mr Khan and his wife Nadia, 29, of Canton, Cardiff, said he will never shop at Morrisons again after the humiliating blunder.
. . .
Mrs Khan said it was an awful insult to be offered alcohol as compensation for the meat blunder.

She said: 'The duty manager said we could come and have a bottle of wine or champagne on the house.

'I’m really disappointed in their response - they didn’t really care. They were ignorant and lazy.'

Red-faced Morrisons said they were taking the incident seriously and are looking into the error.

A spokesman said: “Clearly this is not good customer service.

'We apologise for the mistake and any offence caused to Mr Khan and his family.
. . .
Morrisons said they are currently in touch with Mr Khan to discuss a more suitable way of compensating his family.

Halal are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat or drink under Islamic Shariah law.

Meat must come from a supplier that uses halal practices. The slaughter should be performed by a Muslim who must start by invoking the name of Allah.

Pakistan: 22-year-old woman, her aunt and cousin shot and dead and buried in 'honor killing'

For more on honor related violence, click here.

The “honour killings" happened in Jawaki village in the Darra Adam Khel district, between the cities of Peshawar and Kohat.

A 22-year-old woman from Karachi who married a Jawaki shopkeeper about two years ago was accused of fleeing her husband's house and marrying another man in the northwestern Swat valley with the help of her aunt and cousin, a local administration official said.

The local tribal council or jirga intervened in the matter and decided on Sunday that the women should be killed.

Relatives shot the three dead at their house late Sunday night and buried them on Monday morning, he added.

“It is a case of honour killings and was settled under tribal customs where the Pakistani criminal code is not applicable,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

“According to the information gathered from local sources, the girl was not happy with her husband.”Local intelligence officials confirmed the killings.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says 943 women and girls were murdered in 2011 after being accused of tarnishing their families' honour.

The statistics highlight the violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens.

Indonesia: Miss World organizers suffer heavy losses due to government’s decision to move the pageant after Muslim protests

The organizers of Miss World 2013 said on Monday that they have suffered heavy financial losses due to the Indonesian government’s decision to move the pageant from Java to Bali at the strong urging of Muslim hard-line groups.

“We had prepared for this for three years, and suddenly we only had three or four days to move the event,” MNC Group CEO Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who organized the pageant, said at a press conference in Jakarta. “We’re… hereby expressing our disappointment. The government should have been aware of [the potential resistance] and communicated this with us.”

Hary refused to cite precise losses, saying only that extra costs had been incurred in rearranging activities at the last minute and moving the accommodations for the 129 contestants, their supporters and family members.

He said he and other stakeholders in the event would discuss a strategy for dealing with the losses, but that there was currently no other choice but to proceed and make do.
. . .
Protests from conservative and hard-line Muslim groups, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), prompted the government to move the pageant to Bali, a predominantly Hindu island in Muslim-majority Indonesia.
. . .
On Saturday, female police officers, backed by nearly 1,000 members of the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob), blocked 200 hard-liners from boarding a ferry to Bali, where they intended to continue their protests.

Syria: Western-backed rebels claim they attacked three villages in Homs province and killed dozens of Alawites

“The people's wall of fear has been broken, as this was the first time these villages were entered and such a high number was killed,” the Al-Qaeda-linked group said in the statement published on a jihadist forum.

Al-Nusra said its fighters entered the villages of Massudiyeh, Maksar al-Hissan and Jab al-Jerah on Tuesday and killed 30 members of the Alawite community, to which President Bashar al-Assad's clan belongs.

The statement said Al-Nusra fighters were urged by an Islamic jurist “to kill the Nusairis, enemies of God”, using a pejorative term for Alawites.

The attack was “in revenge for the killing in cold blood of Muslims and their women in Eastern Ghouta” near Damascus, where the opposition claims 1,400 people were killed in a chemical weapons attack on August 21.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported this week on the attack that 12 civilians were killed, before on Sunday updating its toll to 22 civilians killed in Maksar al-Hissan.

It said among them were 16 Alawites including four above the age of 80 and four children aged between nine and 12...

PA: Mother hangs mentally challenged daughter over pregnancy, 20th honor crime since the beginning of the year

For more on honor related violence, click here.

A mother has admitted to beating her mentally challenged daughter before hanging her to death. The confession came after the mother turned herself in to the Palestinian Police.

It is alleged that the daughter was mentally challenged and was murdered after her mother found out that she was pregnant. This family honour crime occurred in the town of Yata, near Hebron, and the daughter has become the twentieth Palestinian woman murdered on the grounds of family honour since the beginning of the year.

Sources in Hebron said the body of the 21-year-old woman was taken to Abu Al Hassan Al Qassem Hospital in Yata. The woman’s remains were referred to Abu Dees Forensic Centre for autopsy.

The Palestinian Police and Public Prosecution claim that an investigation has been launched and that its outcome will be announced shortly.

Sources in Yata and Hebron told Gulf News that the victim’s father and brother have disappeared since the crime was committed and that the Palestinian Police has been searching for them though the mother has turned herself in...

Philippines: Violence continues as members of the MNLF torched more houses and buildings while retreating from advancing security forces

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Mayor Isabelle Climaco Salazar said the perpetrators of the crisis are fully accountable for the lives lost and the city's destruction, and hoped the "full force of the law" would fall on their heads.

She urged residents to keep praying "our nightmare would end."

At a briefing called by the local crisis committee Sunday afternoon, representatives of a Muslim association in Zamboanga also denied having called a jihad, and stressed that the Muslim residents are in complete harmony with the local government and with Christians.

Officials also appealed to parties spreading rumors about supply shortages, saying they should not fan people's fears, or lay down the pretext for hoarding or profiteering. Commerce was reported to have normalized in several key areas of the bustling city by weekend, especially for traders of basic supplies.

Casualty count rising

As of Sunday afternoon, the military said the MNLF has already suffered 51 dead and 19 of them were either captured or surrendered. On the government side, the number of fatalities remained at 6 and 59 wounded.

Relatedly, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Loreta Ann Rosales praised government forces for giving paramount consideration to the safety of hostages in the conduct of “calibrated operations.”

Rosales said in her Twitter account: “We congratulate [our] brave policemen and soldiers in containing [the] MNLF rampage under International Humanitarian Laws (IHL)/Human Rights (HR) guidelines. You make us proud!”

Mayor Climaco-Salazar described the situation as “heartbreaking and upsetting” because of the destruction brought about by the “war for independence” being waged by Misuari and his loyalists. Pitched battles broke out anew over the weekend after a short-lived cease-fire brokered by Vice President Binay that took effect Saturday midnight was broken by fresh fighting.

The mayor called on Zamboanga residents to "keep praying" so that "our nightmare" would end.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said hundreds of houses, buildings and structures were being torched by the rebels in Sta. Catalina and Sta. Barbara.

3 bodies found

On Sunday morning, authorities recovered two dead MNLF rebels – a man and a woman – and another dead MNLF male fighter was also recovered in Sta. Barbara after government forces flushed out the rebels in several minutes of firefight at the Sta. Barbara Elementary School.

Four MNLF members – two men and two women – were also captured in Sta. Catalina. “Our operations are continuous and we’re gaining ground. We’re pushing forward to some areas they held and hopefully we will retake them soon,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head of the military’s public affairs office, said.

Zagala added they were “looking [at] a speedy conclusion, but again we don’t want to use speed as our basis. It must be calibrated because there are hostages. Hindi tayo nagmamadali [We are not rushing]. Our focus is really for the hostages not to be hurt, ‘yun ang importante [that is important],” he added.

According to the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) led by Climaco-Salazar, four more hostages, including two children, were able to escape Sunday morning from their MNLF captors.

President Benigno Aquino III was still in the city to personally supervise the military operations against the MNLF.

Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said the President is giving orders to ground commanders.

Also with him are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Alan Purisima, among others.

The CMC said close to 70,000 evacuees continue to cram evacuation centers, and DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said there are enough supplies for food, water and other basic things for the evacuees.

Canada: Muslim protesters took to the street to express anger at a plan to ban public sector workers from wearing religious garb in Quebec

The prohibition of headscarves, turbans and other religious garments is part of a proposed overhaul of the Canadian province’s “Charter of Values.”

“No to the charter,” the demonstrators shouted, while also chanting “Quebec is not France,” — a reference to a similar law which has been in force in that country for more than two years.

The planned measure, soon to be presented to parliament, has sparked a raging debate since details were leaked to the media a few weeks ago.

It would ban public sector employees from donning “conspicuous religious symbols,” including headscarves, yarmulkes, turbans, and large crosses at work, but allows certain religious jewelry, as long as it is “not very visible.”

The proposal also requires people receiving state services “to make their faces completely visible” — a measure aimed at banning some traditional head-to-toe garments worn by Muslim women.

The Quebec minister in charge of the issue, Bernard Drainville, said recently that ridding the region of the public wearing of religious apparel by government workers would help provide a greater sense of unity among Quebecers.

The proposal also aims to foster “the religious neutrality of the state,” he said.

“The best way to respect all Quebecers, the best way to respect all beliefs and all religious, is for the state to have no religion,” Drainville said...

Indonesians hold Islam's answer to Miss World, a rival pageant exclusively for Muslims

The Muslimah World contest to be held on Wednesday in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, is "Islam's answer to Miss World," the pageant's founder Eka Shanti said Saturday.

"Muslimah World is a beauty pageant, but the requirements are very different from Miss World -- you have to be pious, be a positive role model and show how you balance a life of spirituality in today's modernized world," Shanti told AFP.

The pageant is the latest backlash against Miss World, which has already dropped the bikini from its beach fashion round and has attracted more than a month of protests by Muslim hardliners demanding the show be scrapped.

Radicals have set effigies of the organizers alight and deemed the contest "smut" and "pornographic."

The 20 Muslimah World finalists were chosen from more than 500, who took part in online rounds, reciting Koranic verses and telling stories of how they came to wear the Islamic headscarf, a requirement for the pageant.

The finalists, from Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Indonesia, will parade Islamic fashions in what Shanti says is an opportunity to show young Muslim women they do not need to show their "immodest" parts -- including their hair and bare shoulders -- to be beautiful.

But Shanti said she did not support hardliners' calls to cancel the Miss World contest, acknowledging that Indonesia was a diverse country with many faiths.

"We don't just want to shout 'no' to Miss World. We'd rather show our children they have choices. Do you want to be like the women in Miss World? Or like those in Muslimah World?" Shanti said.

The Muslimah World finalists will be welcomed with open arms, with hundreds of women wearing headscarves planning to take part in what they call an "elegance rally" Sunday to greet the contestants and offer a moderate voice to the debate, Shanti said.

In contrast, Miss World contestants were again ridiculed Saturday, with around 300 members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front gathering in the capital, holding signs that read "Miss World is a whore contest."

Government officials gave in to hardliners last week and announced the Miss World final would be moved from the outskirts of Jakarta to the resort island of Bali, where the contest began last week with no opposition from the Hindu majority there.

Despite the decision to keep all Miss World activities off the Muslim-majority island of Java, protestors from the Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia also demonstrated Saturday in the central Java city of Yogyakarta, where contestants had planned to visit but were forced to cancel their trip.

"Miss World is not welcome in Indonesia at all," a spokeswoman for the organization in Yogyakarta said.

MNC Group, the organizers and broadcaster of Miss World, said this week that they were not party to the government's decision and have said it would be "impossible" to make the last-minute move.

The decision to confine Miss World activities to Bali was the latest victory for Islamic fringe groups, who are wielding increasing power and have succeeded in getting several events they deem un-Islamic changed or cancelled in recent years.

Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hardliners threatened to burn down the venue and criticized her for wearing only "a bra and panties."
Update:
A Nigerian contestant has been crowned the winner of a beauty pageant for Muslims in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, 21, won the World Muslimah 2013 title on Wednesday.

Twenty finalists showed off Islamic fashions and worked to demonstrate religious values during the contest.

The pageant was held before the upcoming Miss World competition, which has drawn protests from hardline Indonesian Muslim groups.

Finalists in World Muslimah were chosen from more than 500 who took part in an online selection process.

One of the rounds involved contenders comparing stories of how they came to wear the hijab (Muslim headscarf) - a requirement for all those taking part.

The finalists hailed from countries including Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria and Brunei.

In the run-up to the final, contestants underwent three days of "spiritual training", waking before dawn to pray together and to study the Koran.

Ms Ajibola, 21, cried and recited a verse from the Koran when her name was called as the winner. She was awarded 25m rupiah ($2,200, £1,360) and trips to Mecca and Indiao...

India: Hindu Jat family protected 70 Muslims in Fugna village during Muzaffarnagar riots

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Even as savagery and hatred blinded people in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts over the last weekend, all does not seem to be lost. As two communities bayed for each others' blood, many examples of compassion, sane thinking and brotherhood stand out in the violence that killed 43, injured more than 90 and left a staggering 43,000 homeless.

In reports collected from the countryside of western Uttar Pradesh by the special task force (STF) and the local intelligence unit (LIU) of the police, there were many village seniors who prevailed upon the "young and the mad" that spilling blood was no solution to any problem.

A Jat family in violence-hit Fugna village gave shelter to seven Muslim families in their home, despite overpowering protests by others, and asked its family members to keep a watch by positioning themselves on roof tops, armed with lathi's and axes. The family of village head Brijendra Singh Malik, police officials said, protected 70 Muslims and warned rioters to keep off the men, women, children and elders who had taken refuge in their house.

He also informed the district administration of the refugees and ensured that they were escorted to safety by police personnel. In the same village, the former village head, Choudhary Vedpal Malik, transported 50 people to safety Monday.
. . .
Saluting the spirit of the people to ensure peace and calm, intelligence reports cite the example of Sanjeev Baliyan, village head of Dulheda village who, alongwith 20 others who hold arm licenses, held fort for more than four hours and did not allow 200 rioteers to enter the village. By his act of compassion and sheer bravery, he saved 40 lives.

Another case of patience and maturity was in Muhammadpur Sakist, where despite the killing of a Hindu youth, the villagers saved the sole Muslim family in the village and safely took it to a relief camp. Officials said that while Shamli was largely peaceful, it sat on a powderkeg of rumours for a long time. Despite this, in Peerkheda, the village seniors ensured that the 400 Muslims among the 3,000 residents were safe...

Zanzibar: Roman Catholic priest being treated at hospital after acid attack on a busy street

Father Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was leaving an internet cafe in the historic Stone Town area of Zanzibar City on Friday at around 4pm when acid was thrown at him.

It follows an acid attack on two British teenage girls working on the island as volunteers last month and is the fifth acid attack on Zanzibar since November 2012.

A police spokesman said the acid had badly injured his face, chest, thighs and legs.

"He sustained burns in his face and shoulders. The acid burnt through his shirt," Zanzibar police spokesman Mohamed Mhina said.

Tensions between the majority Muslim population and Christians have been on the increase in recent years, as well as on mainland Tanzania. In February, a Catholic priest was shot dead...
Update:
Fifteen people, including militants of terror network al-Qaida and Somali Islamist group Al-Shabab have been detained for alleged involvement in acid attacks against a priest and more than a dozen other people on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, police said.

The news came while Catholic priest Joseph Anselmo Mwagambwa was recovering Sunday, September 22, after he survived an acid attack on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar following two other attacks against priests.
. . .
Two other Catholic priests were shot in the past year in what was seen as a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in Zanzibar, a heavily Muslim island some 22 miles (35 kilometers) outside the mainland. One priest was wounded last year and the other killed in February.

Several churches have been set on fire.

ACID WEAPON

More recently, attackers have chosen acid as their favorite weapon against those they consider "infidels" or unwanted.
. . .
Police Commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa told media that police had seized 29 liters of acid from various people who were not legally entitled to have it.

He did not provide more details about the allegations that militants were among those detained, but church leaders have expressed oncerns about rising extremism in the area, a development that authorities fear could further impact crucial revenues from tourism.

Egypt: Two Coptic Christians were shot dead for refusing to pay Jizyah, the Muslim poll tax on non-Muslim citizens

For more on Jizyah, click here.

Emad Damian, 50, and his cousin Medhat Damian, 37, from the village of Sahel Selim in Assuit Province, were contacted two days before their murder by the leader of a Muslim gang, who was identified by Watany Coptic Newspaper as Ashraf Ahmed Mohammed Khalajah, a registered criminal from the village.

Accoring to Emad's brother Dr. Samy Damian, Emad was contacted about 9:30 PM by a member of the gang, who demanded 10,000 Egyptian pounds so that he could buy weapons. "My brother said that he had no problems with anyone, does not require services from anyone, and does not have the money."

In an interview on Al Nahar TV Channel on September 12, Ahmed Fawzi, secretary for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said the two murdered Copts, who were members of his political party, reported the matter to the police in Sahel Selim and asked for police protection, but the police did nothing.

"A couple of days later the gang surprised the two Copts by going to their home in the morning and showering them with bullets, leaving both dead," Fawzi said. "The police know who the killers are but are doing nothing to arrest them."

The districts of Sahel Selim and Ghanayem are the most unsafe areas in Assuit and their police stations were heavily shelled by the Muslim Brotherhood on August 14.

Meanwhile, the security situation remains tense in the village of Delga, Deir Mawas, 160 miles south of Cairo in Minya, where Muslim Brotherhood gangs completely control the village after the ouster of ex-president Morsy. They target the 20,000 Coptic inhabitants by imposing Jizya on them allegedly to "safeguard" them from acts of violence and vandalism to their homes and shops. Despite the arrival last week of a new director of security in the province, the scene is still grim for many.

Rev. Youannas Shawky, Pastor of the monastery of Our Lady and Saint Ephrem in Delga, which was completely destroyed on 3rd July by pro-Morsy supporters (AINA 7-6-2013), said the practice of collecting Jizya from Copts started after the departure of Morsy and continues to be imposed on all Copts in the village without exception, pointing out that the value of the tribute and methods of payment vary from one place to another within the village. The amount varies from 200-500 Egyptian pounds daily, which are exorbitant amounts to many villagers. Rev. Youannas estimates 50 families have left the village so far...

Syria: Western-backed rebels slits throat of Christian man refusing to deny Christ, then taunts fiancée, 'Jesus didn't come to save him'

Ghastly attacks on Christians mocked as "Crusaders" in Syria continued unabated as Jihadists reportedly forced one man to convert to Islam at gunpoint and slit the throat of another Christian woman's fiancé and then told her, "Jesus didn't come to save him."

Residents who fled from the ancient town of Maalula in Syria told AFP that jihadists ambushed the town last week and forced a man to convert to Islam at gunpoint.

"They arrived in our town at dawn... and shouted 'We are from the Al-Nusra Front and have come to make lives miserable for the Crusaders," said one woman identified as Marie in Damascus, where many people from Maalula fled after rebels first attacked that town on Sept. 4.

One of the most renowned Christian towns in Syria, many of Maalula's approximately 5,000 residents speak Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Rebels want to tighten their control of the town for its strategic value as a launching point to level attacks on the highway between the capital and Homs, a key regime supply route.

On Tuesday, Marie and hundreds of others in exile in Damascus, attended the burial of three Christian pro-regime militiamen who were killed in fighting.

Adnan Nasrallah, 62, told AFP that an explosion destroyed an archway just across from his house that leads into Maalula during the fighting last week.

"I saw people wearing Al-Nusra headbands who started shooting at crosses," the Christian senior told the AFP. One of the shooters, he said, "put a pistol to the head of my neighbor and forced him to convert to Islam by obliging him to repeat 'there is no God but God'...Afterwards they joked, 'he's one of ours now'."

Nasrallah said he operated a restaurant, called Maalula, in the State of Washington in the U.S. for 42 years when he decided to return to Syria shortly before the uprising erupted in Syria in March 2011.

He said when the rebels came to town, his Muslim neighbors rejoiced. His sister Antoinette disputed that story, however, saying the people rejoicing were refugees from out of town.

Another Maalula resident, Rasha said the jihadists brutally murdered her fiancé Atef, who was a part of the town's militia.

"I rang his mobile phone and one of them answered," she said.

"Good morning, Rashrush," a voice answered, calling her by her nickname according to AFP. "We are from the Free Syrian Army. Do you know your fiancé was a member of the shabiha (pro-regime militia) who was carrying weapons, and we have slit his throat?"

Rasha said the man told her Atef was asked to denounce his faith and convert to Islam and he refused.

"Jesus didn't come to save him," the rebel taunted.

Spain: Jihadist group threaten to carry out attacks in Catalonia in response to efforts by lawmakers to increase surveillance of radical Muslims

A jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda has threatened to carry out terrorist attacks in Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeastern Spain that is home to the largest concentration of radical Islamists in Europe.

The threats were issued by a group called "Africamuslima" in response to efforts by Catalonian lawmakers to increase surveillance of radical Salafists seeking to impose Islamic Sharia law in Spain and other parts of Europe.

Catalonia -- a region of 7.5 million people centered on the Mediterranean city of Barcelona -- is home to the largest Muslim population in Spain. Most of the estimated 450,000 Muslims in Catalonia are from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Many of the Muslims living in Catalonia are shiftless single males who are unemployed and "susceptible to jihadist recruitment," according to diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and published by the Madrid-based El País newspaper.

Spanish authorities are especially concerned about the threat posed by Salafism, a radical strain of Islam that seeks to re-establish an Islamic empire [Caliphate] across the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, which Salafists view as a Muslim state that must be reconquered for Islam.

Spain's National Intelligence Center [CNI] says Catalonia is home to hundreds and possibly thousands of Salafists who, according to intelligence experts, pose the greatest threat to Spain's national security.

Catalan officials recently have redoubled efforts to improve surveillance of Salafist groups in the region.

On August 27, it emerged that Catalan police (known locally as the Mossos d'Esquadra) have been conducting a "census" to identify and register Muslim women who wear Islamic body-covering burqas and face-covering niqabs.

According to local media reports, the Catalan Interior Minister, Ramon Espadaler -- based on the belief that these garments may constitute an indicator of the spread of Salafism in Catalonia -- has ordered members of the Mossos to file a report every time they see a burqa or niqab.

Espadaler said the effort involves creating a "list of indicators that could point us to radicalization processes." He warned that there is a "target risk" of radicalization in Muslim areas in Catalonia, and made it clear that the collection of data on burqas and niqabs is part of the requirement that the Mossos "remain vigilant."

Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs defended the move; he said that police have an obligation to "know what is going on."

On July 18, the Catalan Parliament approved a draft law that would ban the wearing of face-coverings such as the Muslim burqa or niqab in all public spaces. The proposed ban is set to become an integral part of a new Law on Pubic Spaces that will be presented to the Parliament in early 2014...

US: Boston school recites Muslim poem instead of Pledge of Allegiance on the 12th anniversary of 9/11

The principal of Concord Carlisle High School, Peter Badalament issued an apology and said that a 'small number' of people were outraged at the poem, which was meant to promote 'cross-cultural understanding'.

According to the Washington Times, the Pledge of Allegiance was not read because of some confusion and the principal said that the school was unaware that their student pledge reader was unavailable that day.

The report said that Mohja Kahf's 'My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears' was recited in which a granddaughter's account of watching her grandmother adhere to the religious Muslim custom of washing her feet five times a day, is described...

Egypt: Muslims seize a Protestant church and turn it into a mosque, recite special prayer to consecrate the building to Allah

The Muslim Brotherhood have turned an evangelical Protestant church in Monshaat Baddini in the province of Samalout ( Minya, Upper Egypt) into a mosque. According to local sources, the Islamists have removed all sacred furnishings , paintings, icons and recited the special prayer to consecrate the building to Allah. On the wall of the church an inscription reads : "mosque of martyrs and there is no other God but Allah."

Menassa Nesseim , the Pastor of the local Protestant community , tells Mcn-direct (an Egyptian Christian Press Agency) that " since August 14 , the day of the Islamist assault against Christians , no one has been able to enter the building ." He denounces the inaction of the authorities who have accepted the fact with indifference: "Neither the police nor the armed forces have raided the church, to eject the squatters and return the building to the Protestant community". Nesseim reports that the militants have placed their men to guard the complex. Christians are afraid to approach their church.

Attacks against Egyptian Christians began in mid- August, after the evacuation of the sit -in of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and other cities of the country. There are currently over 80 churches destroyed. Added to this sad toll are he 162 homes and shops destroyed and the daily threat of being subjected to more attacks and kidnappings.

In Delga city of the province of Minya , Islamists have created a kind of parallel state, turning the city into an Islamic enclave in which shariah prevails. To survive Christians must pay the "jizya " tax "compensation" demanded by the Koran from non-Muslim subjects who are "protected" the Islamic umma .

Afghanistan: Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri calls for attacks inside the United States to “bleed America economically”

In an audio speech released online a day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 strikes, Zawahri said attacks “by one brother or a few of the brothers” would weaken the U.S. economy by triggering big spending on security, SITE reported.

Western counter-terrorism chiefs have warned that radicalized “lone wolves” who might have had no direct contact with al-Qaeda posed as great a risk as those who carried out complex plots like the 9/11 attacks.

“We should bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on its security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure,” he said.

Keeping America in such a state of tension and anticipation only required a few disparate attacks “here and there”, he said “As we defeated it in the gang warfare in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan, so we should follow it with ...war on its own land. These disparate strikes can be done by one brother or a few of the brothers.”

At the same time, Muslims should seize any opportunity to land “a large strike” on the United States, even if this took years of patience.

The Sept 11, 2001 attacks, in which hijacked airliners were flown into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington and a Pennsylvania field, triggered a global fight against al-Qaeda extremists and their affiliates. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the attacks.

In his audio speech, Zawahri said Muslims should refuse to buy goods from America and its allies, as such spending only helped to fund U.S. military action in Muslim lands. He added that Muslims should abandon the U.S. dollar and replace it with the currency of nations that did not attack Muslims.

Zawahri spoke approvingly of one of the worst attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, the bombing of the Boston Marathon in April, which U.S. authorities say was carried out by two ethnic Chechen Muslim brothers. The attack killed three people and injured 264.

Zawahri sought to paint the bombing as part of al-Qaeda’s violent transnational campaign of jihad or holy war against U.S. interests, even if it was relatively small-scale...

Syria: Women, children and elderly men among 22 dead from massacre in a minority Alawite village

The minority Alawite sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and most of Syria's elite belong is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam whose members have increasingly been targeted by radical fighters among the Sunni Muslim-dominated opposition in the 2-1/2-year revolt against Assad.

Fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front shot dead 16 Alawites and six Arab Bedouins on Tuesday after storming the village of Maksar al-Hesan, east of the city of Homs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is opposed to Assad.

The British-based Observatory said the victims included seven women, three men over the age of 65, and four children under the age of 16, citing residents and medics.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Observatory, said the victims had been shot in their homes, and that they were not members of any pro-Assad militias. Activists in Homs had said on Wednesday that the dead were all from pro-government militias.

Al Qaeda-linked groups have launched an "Eye for an Eye" campaign, which they say is to take revenge for an apparent chemical weapons attack in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus in which of civilians died. The opposition and Western powers blame Assad's forces for the strike.

Most of the revenge attacks have targeted Alawite areas...

Canada: Imam charged with sexual assault for an incident at the Masjid Al-Hidayah and Islamic Cultural Centre

RCMP say Saadeldin Bahr, who also uses the name Dr. Saad, is facing one charge of sexual assault.

"The Coquitlam RCMP Sex Crimes Unit continues to investigate the current allegation against Mr. Bahr and is interested in hearing from anyone who has information that could advance the investigation," said a statement released by police on Thursday.

"In addition, as there is a possibility of additional victims, investigators are encouraging anyone with information about other incidents to come forward. All tips and information will be followed up," said the statement.

Police say no other information about the incident will be released in order to protect the identity of the alleged victim...

Christians targeted in Middle East conflicts, black “X” signs appearing on walls of churches to identify targets for enraged Muslims

These are grim days for Christians in Egypt and Syria. Ominously, black “X” signs began appearing on the walls of Christian churches in Egypt and other buildings associated with Egypt’s Coptic Christians.

According to Christian groups calling for help from Canada and other countries, the black Xs are intended to identify targets for enraged Muslims to attack during the violence in Egypt unleashed following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Muhammad Morsi by the Egyptian military.

Christian groups expect the Stephen Harper government’s much-touted Office for Religious Freedom to make certain Canada’s serious concerns over the threats faced by Christians abroad are made clear to Egyptian and other Middle East governments, emphasizing their responsibility to ensure all members of society, including Christians, have their rights and security protected.

In Syria, Christians have also come under attack, primarily because opposition forces trying to overthrow the Alawite-dominated regime of President Bashar Assad claim the Christian minority — nine per cent of the 15 million population — sat on the fence when the Sunni majority (72 per cent) rose up against the Alawite minority (11 per cent).

Although most of Syria’s Christians attempted to stay on the sidelines in the fighting against the Assad regime, many in the predominantly Sunni opposition saw the Christians as implicitly backing Assad.

The plight of Christians in that region is not a new phenomenon...

Somalia: American 'jihadist rapper' on FBI's most wanted list reportedly killed in an ambush ordered by the militant group's leader

A rapping jihadist from Alabama who ascended the ranks of Somalia's al-Qaida-linked militant group and was on the FBI's most wanted list with a $5m (£3.2m) reward for his capture was reportedly killed on Thursday in an ambush ordered by the militant group's leader.

Omar Hammami, a native of Daphne, Alabama, who was known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, or "the American", died in southern Somalia following several months on the run after a falling out with al-Shabaab's top leader, the militants said.

Reports of Hammami's death crop up every few months in Somalia, only for him to resurface a short while later. But a US terrorism expert who closely follows the inner workings of al-Shabaab said he thought the current reports of the death were accurate.

"I think it's very likely true based on the sources I am seeing," said JM Berger, who runs the website Intelwire.com.

Militants did not immediately present proof of Hammami's death.

A member of al-Shabaab who gave his name as Sheik Abu Mohammed told the Associated Press that Hammami was killed in an ambush in Somalia's southern Bay region. Some of Mohammed's associates carried out the killing, he said.

Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan – a former Osama bin Laden spokesman – Hammami was one of the two most notorious Americans in jihad groups. He grew up in Daphne, a community of 20,000 outside Mobile, the son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father.

His YouTube videos that featured him rapping and his presence on Twitter made him one of the most recognisable and studied US foreign fighters. The US put Hammami on its most wanted terrorist list in March and offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture.

US prosecutors had charged Hammami with providing material support to terrorists.
. . .
The first serious attempt on his life was made in April.

"Just been shot in neck by shabaab assassin. not critical yet," Hammami tweeted after the April attack. He later wrote on Twitter that the leader of al-Shabaab was sending in forces from multiple directions. "we are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he's starting a civil war," Hammami posted.

Hammami accused al-Shabaab's leaders of living extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collected from Somali residents. Another Hammami grievance was that the Somali militant leaders sidelined foreign militants inside al-Shabaab and were concerned only about fighting in Somalia, not globally.

The leader of al-Shabaab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is also known as Godane.

Berger said Hammami had been "a thorn in the side of al-Shabaab" for more than two years and "one of the few surviving dissenters after Godane's bloody purge over the summer"...

Morocco: Christian fined and jailed for "shaking the faith of a Muslim" in country where spreading Christianity is prohibited

Spreading Christianity is prohibited under Article 220 of the Moroccan Penal Code; the maximum sentence for this offense is three to six months' imprisonment, but in a September hearing, Mohamed el Baldi was convicted and sentenced to two and a half years!

Baldi was arrested after his house was raided on August 28 and all his religious belongings were confiscated, according to World Watch Monitor.

Baldi, who converted to Christianity almost seven years ago, confessed that he attended Christian meetings in the towns of Meknes and Rabat.

During his hearing, Baldi's mother was said to have asked Allah to exact revenge on whoever tampered with her son's mind.

Having a population more than 99 percent Muslim, Morocco is ranked 39th on the Open Doors International World Watch List of countries where practicing Christianity is the most difficult.

Pakistan: Dozens of Christian families have fled from their homes after pastor was accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad

In a discussion with a Muslim man on August 24, Pastor Sattar Masih, 37, was accused of saying that Muhammad was a brutal man who killed innocent people.

Masih denies the accusations, saying he said nothing derogatory about Islam or the Prophet.

The pastor was beckoned before Islamic clerics to plead his case. “The clerics will decide if he blasphemed against our Prophet and in case he refused to appear before the clerics then we will kill him,” said his accuser, 18-year-old Ali Hassan.

Fearing he would not be given a fair trial, Masih fled to Lahore with 21-year-old Christian Wasim Raza, who had introduced Hassan to the pastor, after a group of Muslims had undertaken a house-to-house search for them.

Masih told World Watch Monitor that one cleric had asked him if he had said Muhammad was a cruel man. “I clearly refuted the claim and told him that I had only defended that the Bible is still in its original form,” he said.

On September 2, more than 250 Muslims gathered to discuss the case against Masih. Seven Christians from the families of Masih and Raza defended him, saying that no insulting language about Islam or its prophet had been used.

The next day, teachers from the village school asked Christian students about the religious teachings Masih had been giving them. More than 100 of them were sent home, which raised alarms among their families, causing many of them to flee from the village.

A local police spokesman said police had intervened and that there was no danger of an attack against Christians. However, Christians are still reluctant to return, particularly Masih and Raza, who fear that they will be killed.

There is a history of violence in Pakistan against those accused of blasphemy. In 2012, a Hindu teenager was brutally killed and burned. Last year, a Muslim man was taken out of the police station where he had been questioned and burned to death.

In July 2010, two Christian brothers, Sajid Emmanuel and Rashid Emmanuel, were shot death at the courthouse where they had been declared innocent.

Pakistan is No. 14 on the 2013 World Watch List, an annual ranking of the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult. It is published by Open Doors International, a ministry to Christians living under pressure for their faith. Pakistan’s “Christians are caught between Islamic militant organisations, an Islamising culture and a weak government with a military complicit in fuelling Islamic militants,” according to the list.

Support for terrorism remains high amongst Palestinians, despite overall drops across the Muslim world, new survey says

In a new survey released by the Pew Research Center, support for terrorism and terrorist groups remains high amongst Palestinians, despite overall drops in support of terrorist groups across the Muslim world.

“Widespread Muslim concern about Islamic extremism is generally coupled with rejection of suicide bombing and other forms of violence in the name of Islam. However, in some countries, substantial minorities of Muslims say attacks on civilians are at least sometimes justified to defend Islam from its enemies; in the Palestinian territories, a majority of Muslims hold this view,” the survey said.

The survey highlights the deep level of support for suicide bombing in the Palestinian territories.

“Support for suicide bombing and other violence aimed at civilian targets is most widespread in the Palestinian territories, with 62% of Muslims saying that such attacks are often or sometimes justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Support is strong both in Hamas-ruled Gaza (64%) and the Fatah-governed West Bank (60%),” according to the survey.

Amongst support for several Islamic terrorist groups surveyed across the Muslim world, Palestinians also rank the highest in support for Al-Qaeda (35 percent favorable), the Taliban (29 percent favorable), and Hamas (48 percent favorable), and gave the second-most favorable rating for Hezbollah (43 percent).

But overall favorable views of terrorist groups has declined across the Muslim world, according to the Pew survey, and in no country polled do any of the terror groups receive majority support.

The Pew survey included face-to-face interviews with nearly 9,000 Muslims in 11 Muslim countries during this March and April.

France: Imam suspected of running prostitution ring with his three sons, using Moroccan sex slaves aged 14 to 25

Abdeslam Bahiad, director of the mosque "Light of God" in Orange, is still suspected of having been in charge of a network of prostitution in the Vauclusian city. With his three sons, this man, today aged 58, is said to have prostitued several young Moroccan girls in the 400m² villa and dozen or so apartments that his family owned. The girls, aged between 14 and 25, according to information from our sources, are said to have been reduced to a state of slavery, being beaten, raped and not paid or paid very little. "The girls were recruited in Morocco, and made to believe they'd get a real job in France for €7000 to €9000," it was explained.

Philippines: Muslim rebels tied civilians together by rope, used as human shield as standoff with security forces entered its third day

Waving white flags, the hostages shouted "please don't shoot" at soldiers as rebel snipers perched on roof of a residential block fired at the troops about 500 yards away in the Santa Barbara district of Zamboanga, a key port on the southern island of Mindanao.

In another part of the city, three wounded rebels were arrested after exchanging gunfire with police manning a road block to stop the rebels, a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from occupying other districts of the city.

Four decades of conflict in the south have killed 120,000 people, displaced two million and stunted growth in the poor but resource-rich area of the mainly Roman Catholic country.

Last year, another separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a deal with the government, agreeing to a new autonomous region that gave it more political control.

That agreement, which spurred hopes of an economic revival, was opposed by the MNLF faction involved in the current standoff. It signed a deal with government in 1996, but complained Manila did not fulfill its side of the bargain.
. . .
The standoff has paralyzed the port with as many as 170 civilians believed to be trapped, if not physically held hostage.

Schools, shops, offices were closed for the third day. Flights and ferry services were also suspended. Around 12,000 people have been displaced in five districts of the port, known as the city of flowers...
Update:
As members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) torched more houses and buildings while retreating from advancing security forces in Zamboanga City, Mayor Isabelle Climaco Salazar said the perpetrators of the crisis are fully accountable for the lives lost and the city's destruction, and hoped the "full force of the law" would fall on their heads.

She urged residents to keep praying "our nightmare would end."

At a briefing called by the local crisis committee Sunday afternoon, representatives of a Muslim association in Zamboanga also denied having called a jihad, and stressed that the Muslim residents are in complete harmony with the local government and with Christians.

Officials also appealed to parties spreading rumors about supply shortages, saying they should not fan people's fears, or lay down the pretext for hoarding or profiteering. Commerce was reported to have normalized in several key areas of the bustling city by weekend, especially for traders of basic supplies.

Casualty count rising

As of Sunday afternoon, the military said the MNLF has already suffered 51 dead and 19 of them were either captured or surrendered. On the government side, the number of fatalities remained at 6 and 59 wounded.
. . .
3 bodies found

On Sunday morning, authorities recovered two dead MNLF rebels – a man and a woman – and another dead MNLF male fighter was also recovered in Sta. Barbara after government forces flushed out the rebels in several minutes of firefight at the Sta. Barbara Elementary School...

US: "Million Muslim March" attracts less than 30 people, mainly "9/11 Truthers", counter-demo draws over a million

For more on this story, see the coverage by The Huffington Post, UPI, BuzzFeed, Christian Post and The Washington Times.

Today, in Washington DC, thousands of patriotic bikers poured into the capitol in a rally to honor 9/11 and protest a 'Million Muslim March' heavily touted by Muslim Brotherhood front groups like CAIR and ISNA.

The 2 Million Bikers to DC ride didn't draw two million participants, but it probably drew a couple of hundred thousand. The 'Million Muslim March' ended up drawing at most a hundred or so participants, and by some counts as little as 25 or 30.

Bikers went out in groups of fifty from the starting point, the Harly-Davidson store in Maryland's Prince George’s County. in a line that stretched for close to half a mile and kept growing.

Because the bikers were denied a permit by federal and local authorities that would have offered the riders a police escort through traffic, the actual ride was a lot more complicated than it should have been.

This was a sore spot with organizers who thought the denial was politically motivated, especially since the Muslim event received a permit easily. The American Muslim Political Action Committee (MPAC, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, scheduled a rally for 9/11 to draw attention to what they call 'unfair fear of Muslims' after the Sept.11 terrorist attacks. Of course, they picked 9/11 to do so, something I'm sure a lot of people saw as insensitive and even aggressive.

Here are some reactions, as quoted in the Washington Times:

Waiting for the call to put up his kickstand, 68-year-old Jim Hearley said he rode his bike about 650 miles from Ellijay, Ga., to show his support.

“I had to do it. It was the patriot thing to do,” the former Marine and Vietnam veteran said, adding that the Muslim rally was what originally drew him to the ride.

“Any other day it probably wouldn’t have been as big as it is, but it pissed off a lot of veterans and a lot of Americans.”

“They picked the wrong day to do it,” said Kelly Volb, a 42-year-old Pennsylvania woman who attended the ride. “This is to remember everyone who perished on 9/11, out of respect to them.”

While he waited for the ride to begin, Danny Johnson shook hands with fellow riders and recounted memories of being in New York City 12 years ago. The self-described bishop with the Heat of Fire City Church in Louisville, Ky., gave last rites to victims at the Brooks Brothers store on Liberty Street across from ground zero. He said he has spent every Sept. 11 since in Manhattan — until this year.

“I think America has spent 12 years at a funeral,” the 52-year-old said. “We’ve got to revive our country and do something different than we’re doing. It’s time it had a resurrection.”

India: Leading Islamic seminary has issued a fatwa branding photography un-Islamic and a sin

Mufti Abdul Qasim Nomani, Mohtamim (Vice-Chancellor) of the institution, has said Islam does not permit videotaping of marriages or taking of pictures to save as mementos.

"Photography is un-Islamic. Muslims are not allowed to get their photos clicked unless it is for an identity card or for making a passport," he was quoted as telling the Press Trust of India over phone.

Saudi Arabia allows photographers inside Makkah and live telecast of namaz and Hajj on TV across the world.

Mufti Nomani said Saudi Arabia “can do it, but they will not allow it”.

The Darul Ifta in Deoband had issued a religious edict on a query from an engineering graduate, saying he was passionate about photography and wanted to pursue it as a career.

"Photography is unlawful and a sin. Hadith warns sternly against it. Do not do this course. You should search any suitable job based on your engineering course," reads the fatwa posted on the school's website.

Mufti Nomani agreed with the fatwa.

Another platform of Indian Muslims, All India Muslim Law Personal Board, has agreed with the Deoband fatwa.

Its member Mufti Abul Irfan Qadri Razzaqi told PTI: "Islam forbids photographing of humans and animals. Whoever does that will be answerable to God."

A similar fatwa was issued when a television reporter asked if his "facing the video camera" is against Islam.

"…it is prohibited in Islam to photograph and to let others photograph you," reads the fatwa.

Another one reads that any work which involves ‘unlawful things’ is ‘unlawful’. If part of a person's job includes oral or written reporting as well as photography, then the entire income will not be labelled unlawful...

Egypt: 55,000 unlicensed Muslim clerics will be barred from preaching in mosques in crackdown on Islamists

The move is the latest against supporters and sympathizers of deposed Islamist President Mohammad Mursi.

The minister, Mohammad Mokhtar Gomaa, said the clerics lack licenses to preach and are considered to be fundamentalist and a threat to Egypt's security, according to Reuters news agency.

"The decision is only meant to legalize the preaching process during Fridays' mass prayers and make only those authorized to do it, do it," Gomaa told Reuters...

Nigeria: Muslims kill five members of a Christian family, including a 7-year-old boy, and killed another Christian as they fled

Alleged cattle theft may have been the pretext for targeting the predominantly Christian agrarian community, but the gunmen struck the family of 50-year-old Dung Peter only because his home on the eastern edge of Kunte-Kuru village, outside of Jos, was the most accessible for the guerrilla-style attack, they said.

As in other attacks by Fulani cattle herders, targeting a home on the edge of the village enabled the gunmen to slip back quickly into the bush before area Christians could defend themselves.

Gyang Musa Davou, 42, said his slain cousin – referred to as “brother” in Nigeria – had returned from work at 7 p.m.

“At about 10 p.m., he retired to his room to sleep, when suddenly gunmen invaded the village, broke into his room and killed him alongside his wife and three children,” Davou said. “And as they were leaving the house, they saw another man, also a Christian, Dung Dauda, 42, who was returning to the village at the time of the attack. They shot him dead just outside the house of my brother.”

Killed along with Peter were his wife, Rose, 47; his son, Sati, 25; his daughter, Taiye, 17; and his 7-year-old son, Samson. Another son, 20-year-old David, was not in the house at the time and was the sole survivor. His family was part of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN).

Davou said the Fulani Muslim gunmen took the mobile phone of the slain Dauda and used it the next day to “phone some of our people, warning that they will again return to attack the village.”

He appealed to the Nigerian government to protect Christians from attacks that have increased in the past few years. According to Plateau Commissioner for Information and Communications Technology Abraham Yiljap, seven of the assailants have been arrested, and investigations are continuing.

Another relative, Danladi Peter, 46, told Morning Star News that the assault did not come as a surprise.

“This is not the first time these Muslim Fulani gunmen are attacking Christians here,” he said. “Last year in November, they attacked Dabak-Kuru and killed five Christians there.”

Like Peter, the Rev. Mancha Audu Gyang, 64-year-old area COCIN pastor, noted Fulani herdsmen accompanied by soldiers had entered the village two days prior saying they were searching for missing cattle.

“The village head here, Samuel Pwul, on hearing this, immediately invited the police, who came here and met with the soldiers and the Fulani men,” Gyang said. “We were assured that there wouldn’t be any problem, but our fears were confirmed when on the third day, the village was attacked by gunmen. So, we believe that they were here to survey the area before carrying out the attack.”

Gyang said Peter and his family were members of his church, while the sixth victim, Dauda, belonged to a Catholic Church in the village. The five family members were buried in a single grave, while Dauda’s body was buried in his house.

“As for the Peter family, they were actively involved in the various ministries of the church,” he said. “For instance, Taiye was in the Girls Brigade.”

The attack was the third the community has suffered, the pastor said, as Fulani gunmen struck twice last year.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live primarily in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north, according to Operation World. Plateau state, in the central part of the country, is home to both Muslims and Christians.

Somalia: Muslim rebel group kill Christian mother in one town and kidnap a 13-year-old boy in another

According to a story by Morning Star News, the militants, who have vowed to rid Somalia of its underground church, are suspected of killing Fatuma Isak Elmi, 35, on Sept. 1 at about 7:30 p.m. inside her home in Beledweyne, Hiran Province in south-central Somalia.

Her husband had received a threatening note that morning believed to be from the Islamic extremist group and was away at the time of the murder.

Neighbors were alerted to the killing when they heard Elmi's 4-year-old son crying.

"The neighbors heard a child crying for quite some time," a source told Morning Star News. "After one hour, a close neighbor visited the house and found the child outside still crying."

The neighbor, whose identity is withheld for security reasons, told the source that upon entering the house she found Elmi dead.

Elmi's husband, 36-year-old Mumin Omar Abdi, learned of her death when he arrived home at about 10 p.m. He said he had found a note early that morning that read, "We shall come f or you. You are friends with our enemies (Westerners, assumed to be Christians), and you are polluting our religion."

Abdi has fled the area with his son to an undisclosed location, the source said.

Kidnapping

In the southern Somali town of Qoryoley in the Lower Shebelle Region, two witnesses told Morning Star News they saw armed, masked men from Al Shabaab kidnap a 13-year-old boy on Sept. 3 as he approached his home on his way back from school.

Mustaf Hassan was kidnapped near Marka District at about 4 p.m., the sources said. He had been staying with a Muslim relative there since last year, when his parents fled the area after they were suspected of being Christians, another source told Morning Star News.

Another source told Morning Star News that the boy's parents, Hassan Mohammed and Farhio Omar, were in great pain and grief upon learning of the kidnapping.

"Our son might be killed, and we are also not safe," Mohammed said.

No ransom has been sought, and Christians suspected the rebels may have abducted Mustaf in an effort to find his parents or other Christians.

Mustaf is the nephew of Fartun Omar, shot to death by Al Shabaab on April 13 in Buulodbarde, 12 miles from Beledweyne. Morning Star News reported that Omar was the widow of Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, who was killed on Feb. 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village on the outskirts of Kismayo.

On Aug. 5 in Bulo Marer, Lower Shebelle Region, three masked men suspected of being Al Shabaab rebels abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein, a 28-year-old mother of two, outside her home after determining that she was a secret Christian, her husband said.

Al Shabaab, said to have ties with Al Qaeda, is battling the Somali government that replaced the Transitional Federal Government on Aug. 20, 2012.

On June 7 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sou rces said. Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said.

On March 23, Al Shabaab militants in Bulo Marer jailed and tortured a Christian, 25-year-old Hassan Gulled, for converting from Islam, Morning Star News reported sources said.

On Dec. 8 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles north of Mogadishu, gunmen killed a Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. Two unidentified, masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home, Muslim and Christian sources said.

Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels.

However, Morning Star News reported, the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16 201 2, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said.

Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in the Lower Shebelle Region, in Dec. 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia.

Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 percent Muslim.

Philippines: Muslim rebel group MNLF take a Catholic priest and his family hostage in Santa Catalina village

A neighbor of Father Michael Ufana said Moro National Liberation Front rebels barged in the house of the priest in Santa Catalina village and took him hostage, including his sister and father. A local radio network, Radyo Agong, also reported the taking of priest and his sister and father, but their fate remains unknown.

Heavily-armed rebels have taken positions in civilian neighborhood throughout the night and making it extremely difficult for security forces to launch an assault to free the hostages. Government negotiations with the MNLF were also continuing, but details of the talks remain unknown.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar previously said more than 200 civilians have been taken captive by rebel forces, but police said only 85 people are actually being held hostage.

Salazar has suspended all classes and work on Tuesday as the crisis entered its second day. A 9-hour curfew in Zamboanga also remains enforced. Thousands of villagers have fled their homes for fear of being caught in the cross-fire or taken captive by rebels.

She said troops have put up blockades in Talon-Talon village after a group of rebels and their hostages in the village of Mampang were trying to link up with a larger group of MNLF fighters in Santa Catalina.

“Per report from the police, at 3 a.m. today, some 30 armed MNLF tagging along civilians as human shields from Mampang were monitored proceeding to Santa Catalina to support their comrades. However, they were blocked by police and soldiers manning checkpoints in the area,” Salazar said, adding “authorities are undertaking steps to resolve the crisis.”

The mayor also appealed to media anew to refrain from airing sensitive information to prevent panic and confusion. “We thank the media for their extensive coverage of the incident but we have to speak with one voice as our common goal is the safety and protection of the Zamboangueno community,” she said.
. . .
due the the presence of rebel snipers. Two mortar explosions were also reported at sea off Zamboanga.

MNLF commanders said they are fighting for the independence of Mindanao, the southern region they call “Bangsamoro Republik” with Nur Misuari, their chieftain, as president.The rebels under Haber Malik, Misuari's trusted lieutenant, arrived by boats from nearby provinces over the weekend and launched simultaneous attacks that killed at least 6 people and wounded about two dozens more...

Egypt: Christians live in terror following city’s takeover by Muslim Brotherhood

Islamist supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have remained in control of Dalga, an Egyptian city of 120,000, since July 3, and have imposed a reign of terror against Christians, according to the Associated Press.

“The Copts in Dalga live in utter humiliation,” said a local rights activist. “They live in horror and cannot lead normal lives.”

The city’s Christian churches have been attacked, and a 1,600-year-old monastery has been burned down.

The Assyrian International News Agency, citing the Egyptian newspaper Al-Dostour, reported that supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have imposed the jizya, or special tribute on non-Muslims, on the 15,000 Coptic Christians who remain in Dalga.

Malaysia: Muslim cleric defends government’s decision to hike fuel price, attributed the goods prices to Allah’s will

In an article titled “Goods prices are Allah’s will” carried by Malay tabloid Sinar Harian, Fathul advised the Muslims to take the rising cost of living as a test from God, citing several verses from Quran and Hadith to back his arguments.

Fathul’s reasoning was widely criticised across social media websites.

PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said Fathul’s argument was flawed by giving the impression that Islam allows traders to set the prices at will and then regards it as Allah’s will.

Fathul’s reasoning, he said, had given a negative impression on Islam.

“In Islam, fairness not only applies to traders but also consumers,” he was quoted saying by Selangorkini.

PAS Youth chief and Temerloh Member of Parliament Nasrudin Hassan had also mocked Fathul’s reasoning and wondered whether the young ulama would also attribute rising crimes, power abuses and vices to God’s will.

“Sad to have intellectual who thinks like this,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Perlis Mufti Dr Asri Zainul Abidin slammed Fathul for his baseless and confusing reasoning to justify the rising cost of living...

France: Muslim leaders pan ‘secularism charter’ designed to toughen rules banning religion from schools, warn of ‘stigma’ boost

Leaders of France's 6 million Muslims have been discouraged by the new ‘secularism charter’ designed to toughen rules banning religion from schools. Critics say it’s unsuitable for modern-day France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population.

From now on, the ‘Charter for Secularity in School’, which starts out by declaring that France "respects all faiths" and that the state is neutral in regard to them, is to be displayed in every state-funded school across the country in order to "be seen" and respected.

The 15-point statement highlights key principals of secularism, such as freedom of conscience and separation of religion and state, in a bid to ease tensions between Muslims and non-religious students.

The French Muslim community did not welcome the ‘secularism charter’, which many of them viewed as part of a bigger campaign promoting religious hatred, and an assault on Islamic values and traditions.

The chairman of the French Muslim Council believes that the charter is full of "allusions" to Islam, highly likely to boost “stigma”.

"Ninety percent of Muslims are going to have the feeling they are being targeted by this charter, while in 99 percent of cases they cause no trouble to secularism," Dalil Boubakeur told AFP. "Why go back to the 2004 law banning conspicuous religious symbols in schools?" he wondered. "There’s also a call for gender equality..."

Boubakeur is sure that the text will eventually prove to be "counterproductive."

But according to the Socialist government's education minister, Vincent Peillon, the charter is merely an attempt to “get everyone together” to share common values and to promote better understanding of the principles, which go back to anti-clericalism of the French revolution, and the country's 1905 law enforcing a strict separation of church and state.

“Secularism is a fight not against some, but for all; for those who gather together, and must bring everyone else together,” Peillon stated on Monday.

"For example, there are people who believe that secularism is mostly about banning things. Secularism is what allows us to coexist freely together," explained the minister, who is also planning to introduce a course of secular morality lessons in 2015.

Many Muslims fear that stricter laws at schools and universities would only deepen the gap between religions, and step up acts of racism and hatred against them.

In her response to the charter, President of the National Front Marine Le Pen said she regrets that "no real measure has been announced to fight effectively against the advances of communalism."

"Secularism is no longer [something] to write about, it’s to be done", because of "disturbing development of communalism and political and religious demands," she added in a statement, as quoted by Le Monde.

According to the charter, absence of religion from schools actually gives students an opportunity to shape their personality and exercise free will in an environment exempt from political and religious pressure. It basically means that French teachers cannot reveal their religious beliefs during lessons, nor are pupils allowed to highlight their faiths.

In 2004, France passed a law banning schoolchildren from wearing conspicuous religious symbols, such as Muslim headscarves or Sikh turbans, but the law excluded universities. Now the High Council of Integration (HCI) wants to see the same rules applied to universities. In August, the research institute founded by the French government recommended prohibiting students from wearing religious symbols, such as Christian crucifixes, Jewish kippah (yarmulke) skullcaps and Muslim headscarves...

India: Violence has eased after days of deadly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in the town of Muzaffarnagar

Authorities reported no violence overnight around the town of Muzaffarnagar, where the violence that started Saturday killed at least 31 people, wounded an unknown number of others and drove thousands from their homes. Both sides have blamed the other for starting the violence.

Police and soldiers flooded the town and nearby areas, some 480 kilometers (300 miles) from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, and put a strict curfew into effect, ordering rioters to be shot on sight. By Monday evening, about 200 people had been arrested.

"The situation is improving," Praveer Kumar, a senior police official in Muzaffarnagar, said by phone. "We have not decided yet when to lift the curfew, but given the situation, it should be soon."

The violence began Saturday night after a meeting of thousands of Hindu farmers called for justice in the Aug. 27 killing of three young men from the village of Kawal. Officials said some farmers delivered hate-filled speeches against Muslims.

Clashes with Muslims broke out after the meeting, with many using guns, swords, stones or knives, senior police officer Arun Kumar said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief and shock over the deaths, while the central government warned that communal violence was expected to escalate further in the run-up to next year's national elections. Already this year, 451 incidents have been reported, compared with 410 for all of 2012, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said...
Update:
Even as savagery and hatred blinded people in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring districts over the last weekend, all does not seem to be lost. As two communities bayed for each others' blood, many examples of compassion, sane thinking and brotherhood stand out in the violence that killed 43, injured more than 90 and left a staggering 43,000 homeless.

In reports collected from the countryside of western Uttar Pradesh by the special task force (STF) and the local intelligence unit (LIU) of the police, there were many village seniors who prevailed upon the "young and the mad" that spilling blood was no solution to any problem.

A Jat family in violence-hit Fugna village gave shelter to seven Muslim families in their home, despite overpowering protests by others, and asked its family members to keep a watch by positioning themselves on roof tops, armed with lathi's and axes. The family of village head Brijendra Singh Malik, police officials said, protected 70 Muslims and warned rioters to keep off the men, women, children and elders who had taken refuge in their house.

He also informed the district administration of the refugees and ensured that they were escorted to safety by police personnel. In the same village, the former village head, Choudhary Vedpal Malik, transported 50 people to safety Monday.
. . .
Saluting the spirit of the people to ensure peace and calm, intelligence reports cite the example of Sanjeev Baliyan, village head of Dulheda village who, alongwith 20 others who hold arm licenses, held fort for more than four hours and did not allow 200 rioteers to enter the village. By his act of compassion and sheer bravery, he saved 40 lives.

Another case of patience and maturity was in Muhammadpur Sakist, where despite the killing of a Hindu youth, the villagers saved the sole Muslim family in the village and safely took it to a relief camp. Officials said that while Shamli was largely peaceful, it sat on a powderkeg of rumours for a long time. Despite this, in Peerkheda, the village seniors ensured that the 400 Muslims among the 3,000 residents were safe...

Indonesia: Shari'ah Police arrest Protestant Pastor and four other Christians for proselytizing

TheSharia " Police " and security officials in the district of West Aceh , the Indonesian province where Islamic law is in force , arrested Pastor Hendri Budi Kusumo and four other people , members of the Indonesian Mission Evangelist Church ( GMII ) . The incident occurred last week, but only emerged in the past hours. According to reports the religious police - in charge of enforcing Islamic rules and customs - accused the five of "proselytism" , because they were trying to " convert Muslims to Christianity in the area of Aceh. "

Confirmation of the arrest comes from the Aceh 's office of the Committee for Religious Affairs . The local chief officer, Baron Ferryson , said that " they were arrested a few days ago and charged with trying to influence " the local population. They were taken by force from their homes, the man added, after rumors spread of "proselytism." In fact, the Christian pastor was providing educational and remedial courses to the population in order to improve the level of education. And not even the head of the Committee for Religious Affairs claims to be "sure" of the allegations.

According to local media reports , Hendri Budi Kusumo and the other four men were taken from their home in the village of Blang Pulo , in the middle of the night . With them two other people were detained and later identified as "Muslims from the Aceh area " , because they were in the company of Christians. Some witnesses add that "there may be other cases of conversion to Protestantism".

A similar story occurred in June, when a Protestant pastor and three other workers were arrested in the district of Bireuen , again in Aceh , for proselytizing . A story emerged because an alleged convert identified as Hasbi (a "newly baptized " in the local language , ed) returned to his village of origin, and attempted to bring Christianity to his brother Aman Suhardi . The authorities singled out Pastor Onekesyi Zega and arrested him while he was at the village of Bener Meriah , in the company of three assistants and carrying "evidence", which were copies of the Bible in the local language...

Syria: Western-backed rebels break into the village homes, kill three young Christians and kidnap six

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

The bodies of Christians killed lie abandoned by the side of roads; houses and churches have been destroyed and plundered," this is Maaloula today, a village about 60 kilometres north of Damascus that was recently invaded by Islamist insurgents.

The town, the cradle of the Syrian Christian tradition and a unique place in the world where Aramaic is still spoken, is now a ghost town.

Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that "the Islamist insurgents are breaking into village homes. Yesterday they killed three people and took six young Greek-Catholics Christians prisoners. Bodies have been left in the streets as a warning to the population. Many families are locked in their homes and cannot even escape. Nobody knows their conditions."

The situation is critical for those who were able to leave the village. "Several hundred people," sources said, "managed to save themselves, but had to leave all their belongings. A new ordeal is starting for them."

In the capital, parishes gave hospitality to fleeing families, but the food will not last for long.

"These people are traumatised," sources told AsiaNews. "Entire families have left their entire lives in Maaloula. They do not need only material goods such as food, water, a bed to rest but also spiritual support, especially the elderly, women and children. "

The rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) invaded the village last Thursday, defeating government forces with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades.

After taking control of the city, Islamists begun to desecrate Christian buildings, destroying the crosses on the dome of the Greek-Catholic monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus...

Afghanistan: Member of Parliament: Conversion "is an offense to Islamic Laws and according to the Qur'an they need to be executed"

Quds Online news website, affiliated with Astan Quds Razavi Foundation, reported that an Afghan news service, Ava, is saying the number of Christians is increasing in Afghanistan.

According to Mohabat News Service, Ava quoted Nazir Ahmad Hanafi, Afghan Parliament Member, as saying, "Afghani citizens continue to convert to Christianity in India. Numerous Afghans have become Christians in India. This is an offense to Islamic Laws and according to the Quran they need to be executed."

Earlier, another Member of Afghanistan's Parliament had acknowledged that an Afghan church had been built in India. He said, "A church has been built in India called Afghani's Church. Any Afghani citizen who travels to India would be officially invited to the church."

However, Mohabat News said, some other Afghan MPs, however, blame the US for the increasing number of Christian conversions.

Abdul Latif Pedram, who represents Badakhshan province in the Afghan Parliament, stated, "The presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan results in the conversion of Afghans to Christianity. The United States' long term plan is to attack Afghani culture. Converting Afghan citizens serves that purpose."

Mohabat News said he also claimed, "If you want to stop people from converting to Christianity, and are afraid that more people will convert, then why did you sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the US?"

Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, Speaker of the Parliament, has a long record of anti-Christian activities. Condemning all evangelical activities in Afghanistan, Mohabat News said he ordered the National Security Committee in parliament to follow up on the issue through "authoritative organisations."

Of course, Mohabat News commented, such harsh statements against Christianity are made while a number of members of the Parliament of Afghanistan have converted to Christianity, despite all the risks involved.

Islamic leaders of Afghanistan consider the growth of Christianity to be a threat. This phenomenon has reached the point where Mohabat News said they received reports that some Afghani Islamic clerics warned the government against the influence of Christianity in the country.

Some time ago, Mohabat News reported, the Islamic Council of Afghanistan notified President Hamid Karzai about more Christian aid workers and missionaries coming to Afghanistan and the likelihood of more conversions across the country.

Yemen: Eight-year-old child bride dies of internal injuries on first night of forced marriage to groom five times her age

For more on child marriages, click here.

The girl, identified only as Rawan, died in the tribal area of Hardh in northwestern Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia.

Activists are now calling for the groom, who is believed to be around 40 years old, and her family to be arrested so they can face justice in the courts.

They say arrests would help put a stop to the practice of marrying very young girls to older men in the impoverished region.
. . .
The practice of marrying young girls is widespread in Yemen and has attracted the attention of international rights groups seeking to pressure the government to outlaw child marriages.

Yemen's gripping poverty plays a role in hindering efforts to stamp out the practice, as poor families find themselves unable to say no to 'bride-prices' that can be hundreds of dollars for their daughters.

More than a quarter of Yemen's females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry.

Tribal custom also plays a role, including the belief that a young bride can be shaped into an obedient wife, bear more children and be kept away from temptation.

In September 2010, a 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labour to give birth, a local human rights organisation said.

Yemen once set 15 as the minimum age for marriage, but parliament annulled that law in the 1990s, saying parents should decide when a daughter marries.

Bangladesh: Four bloggers indicted by a court on charges of making derogatory comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

In April this year, police arrested the bloggers, Asif Mohiuddin, Moshiur Rahman Biplob, Subrata Adhikari Shuvo and Russel Parvez, on charge of hurting religious sentiments.

After framing charges, Judge Md Zahirul Haque of the Metropolitan Session Judge's Court on Sunday fixed Nov. 6 to start the trial in two cases against the four bloggers, who are now on bail and already pleaded not guilty and demanded justice.

If convicted, they will face 14 years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 10 million taka (about $125,000) in maximum.

Detective Branch of Bangladesh Police in April submitted probe reports against the bloggers, accusing them of hurting religious sentiments.

Since the death of blogger Ahmed Rajib, 35, who along with many others spearheaded Bangladesh's Shahbag Square movement, a series of blog posts described as anti-Islamic have circulated, although their authorship has so far remained unclear.

Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death near his home in Dhaka on February 15.

US: Fort Hood shooter dishonorably discharged, will continue to receive his full military salary until Sept. 10

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan has been dishonorably discharged from the United States Army, according to military officials.

NBC 5 DFW Investigates spoke with Chris Haug, chief of media relations at Fort Hood.

Haug said, according to the Senior Judge Advocate General at Fort Hood, Hasan is “no longer a military serviceman. He has no rank and is dishonorably discharged from the Army" following his court martial and sentencing for the mass shooting at Fort Hood in 2009.

Haug said going forward, Hasan will be called simply “inmate Nidal Hasan" at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Haug detailed that it will technically take some time until the paperwork is signed removing Hasan from the Army’s ranks. But Haug said the order will eventually be signed and backdated to the date of conviction, effectively removing Hasan from the Army as of his conviction date.

A military panel also ordered that Hasan be stripped of his military pay. However that order will not take effect until place 14 days following his sentencing. Hasan will continue to receive his full military salary until Sept. 10.

Earlier this year, NBC 5 Investigates was the first to report that the Department of Defense showed Hasan had been paid about $300,000 after his arrest for the Nov. 5, 2009, shooting.
. . .
New records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show the U.S. Army paid the Bell County Sheriff's Office nearly $650,000 to house Hasan. The Army spent more than $173,000 this year alone to keep Hasan in a special room with private guards at the Bell County Jail.

Egypt: Six-year girl shot dead during Muslim Brotherhood attack on police station

A six-year girl was shot dead while the Muslim Brotherhood, to which ousted president Mohamed Morsi is affiliated, attempted to break into a police station in the upper Egyptian governorate of Minya, state TV reported on Friday.

Hundreds of Brotherhood's supporters besieged the Minya police station, where some of its members were detained. Their clashes with the police forces left one passerby girl killed and several other people injured, the report added. Thousands of Morsi' supporters took to the streets Friday after the noon prayers, calling for reinstatement of the Islamic president who was removed in what they described as "a military coup."

Two were killed and dozens were injured in clashes between the supporters and opponents of Morsi in Damietta and Alexandria governorates on Friday.

Pakistan: Thieves tied up and beaten with sticks by citizens until they fainted for stealing from a Mosque

Two men, the police said were thieves, were caught from in front of a mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan on Friday. They were beaten up by citizens until they fainted.

They were later handed over to the police who took them to a hospital.

They were discharged from the hospital a few hours later and taken to the police station, where the police said they confessed to stealing.

Police quoted the two brothers, identified as Muhammad Akram and Muhammad Aslam, as saying one of them ‘distracted mosque-goers’ by stealing their shoes, and the other stole their motorcycles, while “they discussed missing shoes”.

They told police that they had stolen motorcycles from the parking area of the same mosque thrice in three months. They said they had forgotten about it and gone back to the same mosque.

They said the mosque administration had deputed four men to guard shoes and motorcycles.

They said Akram had managed to steal four pairs of shoes, while Aslam tried opening an anti-theft lock on a motorcycle that had yet no registration number.

They said when they were about to leave, one of the guards, Muhammad Ehsan, saw them chased them. He shouted for help when the two sped off.

They were caught at a picket in front of Nishtar Hospital.

Several people then joined Ehsan in beating them. He said six people identified them as the thieves.

The men’s legs were tied and they were beaten with sticks until they fainted.

B-Division police were then called and the men were taken into custody...

Australia: Devout Muslim father tells daughter 'Playing with non-Muslims is haram'

The Federal Magistrates' Court, sitting in Victoria, heard that the girl had refused to play with another, fair-haired 'non-Muslim' girl during a visit to a family counsellor.

The girl reportedly said "Baba says it is haram", as she explained to her mother that she was not allowed to play with non-Muslim children, the Herald Sun reports.

Federal Magistrate Philip Burchardt said the father was clearly a loving parent but 'he did not appear to have an understanding of his daughter's developmental needs'.
. . .
"Furthermore, his conduct in seeking to alienate (the girl) both from the non-Muslim component of the Australian community and from her mother and grandmother is very disturbing," Burchardt said.

The father however denied telling his daughter who she could play with.
. . .
The father, who is a devout Muslim, also complained to the family counsellor about his ex-wife's dressing style.

Although he denied using denigrating words to describe his ex-wife, Burchardt said his denials were dishonest.

UK: 2,100 female genital mutilation victims seek help at London hospitals in three years, but true figure is far more

For more on female genital mutilation, click here.

More than 2,100 victims of female genital mutilation have been treated in London hospitals since 2010, it emerged today.

Almost 300 women needed surgery to help them recover from the brutal ritual, new figures have revealed.

Among those treated in the capital's hospitals included 12 children, including one girl who had been left with an 'open wound' following the criminal act.

Despite being illegal in the UK, female genital mutilation is on the rise with an estimated 66,000 women dealing with the after-effects and more than 20,000 young girls thought to be at risk.

The procedure is associated with communities in Africa, particularly Mali, Somalia, Sudan and Kenya, as well as some parts of the Middle East.

Many girls living in Britain are taken to these countries for be 'cut', and some will be as young as five.

But it is becoming more prevalent in the UK and experts say today's figures are 'truly shocking' but there are 'far more victims' than the data shows.

In the majority of cases the clitoris is removed because it gives sexual pleasure.

A total of 2,115 FGM patients were seen between 2010 and now, the Evening Standard has revealed.

Dr Comfort Momoh, a specialist in dealing with these injuries at St Thomas’ Hospital, said: 'These statistics show a very significant number of women are being treated for FGM.

'But there are still lots out there who are not being identified because they don’t know where to go for help, aren’t being referred by GPs or are too scared to come forward.

'I’m really worried about girls, in particular. Where are they going to seek help? The GPs who are their first point of call often don’t have the knowledge. We also need teachers and lecturers to do more to at least signpost girls towards help.'...

Afghanistan: Militants shoot dead the Indian author of a popular book about her escape from the Taliban

Local police say she was shot multiple times and her body was found in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika.

"We found her bullet riddled body near Madrassa on the outskirts of Sharan city (provincial capital) this morning," provincial police chief Dawlat Khan Zadran said on Thursday, confirming earlier reports from Indian media.

Ms Banerjee, 49, was a fairly well-known writer whose book Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife, about her dramatic escape from the Taliban was made into a Bollywood film in 2003.

Police say that the book may have been the reason militants targeted her, and that they had spoken with her husband. "Our investigation ... indicates that the militants had grievances against her for something she had written or told in the past, which was then turned into a film," the provincial police chief said.

"She had been shot 20 times and some of her hair had been ripped off by the militants," Zadran said...


Syria: Western-backed rebels seize village that still speaks the ancient language of Jesus Christ

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

Fighting raged through the picturesque mountain village of Maaloula, near Damascus, on Thursday, as the regime launched a counter-attack against the rebels.

"They entered the main square and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary," said one resident of the area, speaking by phone and too frightened to give his name. "They shelled us from the nearby mountain. Two shells hit the St Thecla convent."

Maaloula, tucked into the honey-coloured cliffs of a mountain range north of Damascus and on a "tentative" list of applicants for Unesco world heritage status, is associated with the earliest days of Christianity.

St Thecla, who is supposedly buried in the convent, was a follower of St Paul who fled to the village in Syria to avoid marriage, having taken an oath of chastity. It is said that the cleft of rock in which the convent is placed opened up to allow her to escape her pursuers.

The inhabitants are mostly Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but have historically lived peacefully alongside a Sunni Muslim minority. It is one of only three places in the world where Western Aramaic, a dialect of the language spoken by Christ, is still used.
. . .
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, rebel groups, a mix of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra and the more moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA), attacked with full force.

"First they took a brick factory owned by a Christian guy, who is now missing," said the resident. "Then at around 5.30am, a car bomb detonated at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village.

"Some of the rebels entered a home near the checkpoint belonging to Yousef Haddad, a Christian. They tried to force him to convert to Islam."

A nun living in a convent in the village told the Associated press that 27 orphans living in the convent were taken to nearby caves for shelter.

Video footage posted on YouTube showed rebel fighters on a pick up truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back firing erratically from inside the mountain town.

Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of Syria's population, have increasingly become targets in the conflict as sectarian-minded foreign jihadists gain influence in the opposition ranks. Almost a third of the Syriac Christian population has fled the rebel-held northern town of Hassakeh after Christians became targets for kidnappings and assassinations...

Syria: Western-backed rebels execute Assad’s soldiers and dump bodies in well on camera footage smuggled out of country

Video footage has emerged which shows the moment seven of President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian soldiers are executed on camera by rebels fighting to overthrow the regime.

The soldiers are stripped, bound and pushed to the ground where a number of rebels stand over them pointing guns at their bodies. Some bear vicious injuries on their backs and arms.

Just before they are killed, the ring-leader Abdul Samad Issa - known as 'The Uncle', recites a poem before he fires the first bullet.

'For fifty years, they are companions to corruption', he says. 'We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.'

The horrific scene filmed in April 2012 was documented in a video smuggled out of Syria only a few days ago by a former rebel who says he had become horrified by the brutality of the tactics his one-time comrades are using. He gave the footage to The New York Times.

It has emerged as G20 leaders meet in Russia to debate the dire situation in the war-torn country and will add fuel to the view that the rest of the world cannot actively support rebels who are carrying out atrocities equally as brutal as the troops deployed by President Assad.

Issa is known as 'the uncle' because two of his deputies are his nephews.

His former aide, who had the copy of the footage, said the captured soldiers' allegedly had videos of them raping Syrian civilians and looting which led to the execution.

Issa requested the execution be filmed so he could show it to donors to help secure more funding. At the end of the footage, the bodies of the soldiers are dumped in a well while one of the gunmen looks into the camera and smiles.

It is believed Issa has the support of around 300 fighters willing to carry out the executions of captured soldiers.
. . .
Last year, it is believed he was running a training camp in Turkey and gathering weapons, according to the New York Times.

The footage will no doubt cause problems for the U.S. which is considering attacking Syrian forces over its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians.
. . .
Earlier this year, another sickening video showed a rebel leader eating the heart of a captured soldier...

Malaysia: Woman converted to Islam without her knowledge faces persecution from authorities for practicing Hinduism

An illiterate Hindu woman has been converted to Islam without her knowledge and only found out through the National Registration Department (NRD).

Madinah Kanniammah Abdullah, 54, who lives in a rundown longhouse settlement in Kampung Bunga Raya, Subang, said she had never been a Muslim.

The mother of five told FMT that her problems started when she got into a relationship with an Indian national when she was a teen.

“I was 19 then and was in love with a man from India. He told me that he was Hindu and even prays in temples.

“We lived together for a week and that was when I found out he was a Muslim,” she said. Madinah said her boyfriend took her identification card on the pretext of opening a bank account for her.

“But when he returned the IC I noticed that my name had been changed. When I asked him he said it was the correct spelling of my name in Malay,” she said.

Madinah found out later that her new IC indicated her as a Muslim, after a check with the NRD. “I can’t read and write. So how could I possibly have signed any documents?” she asked.

She said she used thumbprints and could not recall signing any marriage documents with the Muslim man.

Years later, Madinah married a local Hindu in a customary wedding and started having problems when her first child was born.

“I had a tough time trying to register him as a Hindu in his birth certificate because of my Muslim name on the IC.

“Due to this problem, my eldest son is registered as a Muslim,” she said. Fearing that her other children will end up registered as Muslims, Madinah decided not to get MyKads for her other children.

One of her sons will not be able to sit for the PMR examination next month, while one daughter may have to skip her SPM examinations next year as they do not have MyKads.

“Their future is in jeopardy because they do not have MyKads,” Madinah added.

Outcast

She said her husband was bedridden due to illness and being taken care of by his mother.

She said she was being treated like an outcast by her in-laws and her own family out of fear of getting into trouble with the religious authorities.

“I am being blamed for ruining my children’s lives as my eldest son is registered as a Muslim,” she added.

Madinah said she faced harassment from the religious authorites and the police.

“We do not go out from our home besides going to work and school. Sometimes my children get caught for not having MyKads or eating during Ramadan.

“My family is treated like refugees” she said.

Madinah said she had highlighted her plight to the MIC before but nothing was done. “The whole longhouse settlement voted for MIC and I personally urged others to vote for the party candidate upon listening to their promises,” she said.

Madinah urged the government to look into her plight and allow her family to practise the faith of their choice.

“ I was born as Hindu and I want to die as one,” she said.

UAE: English-language paper The Week suspends publication after running an interview with a gay man

For more on persecution of homosexuals, click here.

Muscat, Oman based English-language paper The Week has suspended publication after running an interview with a gay man in a country in which homosexuality is punishable by prison, beatings, and even death.

Titled The Outsiders, the article telling the life of a gay man in Oman, and suggesting the monarchy is more tolerant than its Gulf neighbors sparked an outcry on social media.

Tawfiq al-Lawati, a member of the Shura Council - a body that assists the country's sultan in policy-making - called on Twitter for the ministry of information to intervene and for the weekly to be suspended. The problem of homosexuality is understandable, Lawati said in a later interview. But an article suggesting that Oman is a paradise for homosexuals is unacceptable. The paper responded by running a front-page apology. The Weeknever intended, voluntarily or involuntarily, to damage, wound or offend readers' feelingsThe Week publicly apologizes to its readers, whose opinions it respects, the editors wrote.
. . .
While gays live an underground life in Oman, the press occasionally attempts to break the taboo by running stories about openly gay or transgender people. The most recent case is that of blogger Ala'a Jabar, 21, whose voice was one of the most active in galvanizing the 2011 uprising against former Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In June of this year, Jabar came out on his blog, causing widespread consternation at a confession that would have such grave social and penal consequences...

Bangladesh: Imam sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a 10-year old girl who went to him for Qur'an lessons

For more on pedophilia in Islam, click here.

Judge Md Sajedul Karim of the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunal also fined Yasin Sikdar Tk 40,000 on Thursday.

Sikdar, an Imam at the Sadar Upazila’s Tetulia mosque and Nurani Hafezia Madrasa, will have to serve an additional year in prison if he fails to pay the fine.

Prosecutor Mirza Hazrat Ali said the convict had raped a 10-year-old girl who had come to take lessons on Quran from him on Jul 24, 2010...

Syria: Western-backed rebels launch an assault on a Christian mountain village in the densely populated west

In the attack on the village of Maaloula, rebels commandeered a mountaintop hotel and nearby caves and shelled the community below, said a nun, speaking by phone from a convent in the village. She spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

With the world focused on possible U.S. military action against Syria, there were new signs of fragmentation in rebel ranks, with a small group of jihadis from Russia announcing it has broken away from an umbrella group known as Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Syria conflict, which began with a popular uprising in March 2011, has been stalemated, and it's not clear if U.S. military strikes over the regime's alleged chemical weapons use would change that. President Barack Obama has said he seeks limited pinpoint action to deter future chemical attacks, not regime change.
. . .
On Wednesday morning, rebels from the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra group launched the assault on predominantly Christian Maaloula, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Damascus, according to a Syrian government official and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime group.

At the start of the attack, an al-Nusra fighter blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the village, said the Observatory, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists.

The explosion was followed by fighting between the rebels and regime forces. Eventually, the rebels seized the checkpoint and disabled two tanks and an armored personnel carrier, the Observatory said. At least eight regime soldiers were killed in the fighting, the group said.

The nun said the rebels had taken over the Safir hotel atop a mountain overlooking the village and where shelling from there. "It's a war. It has been going from 6 a.m. in the morning," she said from her convent.

The said the convent houses 13 nuns and 27 orphans. She said around 80 people from the village had come to the convent for safety.

A Syrian government official confirmed the assault and said the military was trying to repel the rebels. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give official statements.

Maaloula is a mountain village with about 2,000 residents, who are among a tiny group in the region that still speaks a version of Aramaic, the ancient language of biblical times also believed to have been spoken by Jesus...
Updates:
A branch of al-Qaeda fighting in the Syrian civil war has seized one of the few remaining villages where the original language of Christ is still spoken, residents say.

Fighting raged through the picturesque mountain village of Maaloula, near Damascus, on Thursday, as the regime launched a counter-attack against the rebels.

"They entered the main square and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary," said one resident of the area, speaking by phone and too frightened to give his name. "They shelled us from the nearby mountain. Two shells hit the St Thecla convent."

Maaloula, tucked into the honey-coloured cliffs of a mountain range north of Damascus and on a "tentative" list of applicants for Unesco world heritage status, is associated with the earliest days of Christianity.

St Thecla, who is supposedly buried in the convent, was a follower of St Paul who fled to the village in Syria to avoid marriage, having taken an oath of chastity. It is said that the cleft of rock in which the convent is placed opened up to allow her to escape her pursuers.

The inhabitants are mostly Melkite Greek Catholic and Orthodox Christians, but have historically lived peacefully alongside a Sunni Muslim minority. It is one of only three places in the world where Western Aramaic, a dialect of the language spoken by Christ, is still used.
. . .
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, rebel groups, a mix of the extremist Jabhat al-Nusra and the more moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA), attacked with full force.

"First they took a brick factory owned by a Christian guy, who is now missing," said the resident. "Then at around 5.30am, a car bomb detonated at the checkpoint at the entrance to the village.

"Some of the rebels entered a home near the checkpoint belonging to Yousef Haddad, a Christian. They tried to force him to convert to Islam."
. . .
Video footage posted on YouTube showed rebel fighters on a pick up truck with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the back firing erratically from inside the mountain town.

Christians, who make up approximately 10 per cent of Syria's population, have increasingly become targets in the conflict as sectarian-minded foreign jihadists gain influence in the opposition ranks. Almost a third of the Syriac Christian population has fled the rebel-held northern town of Hassakeh after Christians became targets for kidnappings and assassinations...
The bodies of Christians killed lie abandoned by the side of roads; houses and churches have been destroyed and plundered," this is Maaloula today, a village about 60 kilometres north of Damascus that was recently invaded by Islamist insurgents.

The town, the cradle of the Syrian Christian tradition and a unique place in the world where Aramaic is still spoken, is now a ghost town.

Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that "the Islamist insurgents are breaking into village homes. Yesterday they killed three people and took six young Greek-Catholics Christians prisoners. Bodies have been left in the streets as a warning to the population. Many families are locked in their homes and cannot even escape. Nobody knows their conditions."

The situation is critical for those who were able to leave the village. "Several hundred people," sources said, "managed to save themselves, but had to leave all their belongings. A new ordeal is starting for them."

In the capital, parishes gave hospitality to fleeing families, but the food will not last for long.

"These people are traumatised," sources told AsiaNews. "Entire families have left their entire lives in Maaloula. They do not need only material goods such as food, water, a bed to rest but also spiritual support, especially the elderly, women and children. "

The rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) invaded the village last Thursday, defeating government forces with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades.

After taking control of the city, Islamists begun to desecrate Christian buildings, destroying the crosses on the dome of the Greek-Catholic monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus...

Pakistan: Christian families tortured by Muslims and forced out of homes after Christian man married a Muslim girl

Four Christian families were forced out of their homes in Pakistan’s Punjab province after a man from the minority community married a Muslim girl, Christian leaders said on Wednesday.

The incident occurred some days ago in Sargodha district, 200 km from the Punjab capital of Lahore. The displaced families staged a protest outside the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday and demanded that the Government help them return to their houses.

They also asked authorities to help them get back the money and household items that were allegedly looted from their homes by Muslim residents of their neighbourhood.

Holding placards and crosses, the Christians alleged that they were “tortured” by Muslim residents of Chak-38 village in Sargodha last week.

The head of the affected Christians, Nazir Masih, told PTI that his nephew Ansar Masih had married a Muslim girl named Muneza several months ago.

“The woman’s brother-in-law, Rana Saifullah, warned us to hand over Ansar and Muneza, otherwise they would not spare our families,” Mr. Masih said.

Ansar Masih left the area after marrying Muneza. “We told them (Muslims) that we don’t know about the whereabouts of the couple,” he said.

“On hearing this, Saifullah gathered the local Muslims who tortured the relatives of Ansar. They also looted their houses and shops and then occupied them,” he alleged.

Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan chairman Aslam Sahotra told PTI that over two dozen members of the affected Christian families were “on the run” and the Government was paying no attention to their plight.

“It is unfortunate that neither Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif nor minority lawmakers took notice of the matter,” he said. District police chief Haider Ashraf was reluctant to take action against the culprits, Mr. Sahotra claimed.

The affected Christians would organise a protest outside the Parliament in Islamabad to force the Government to take notice of their problems, Mr. Sahotra said.

Pakistan: Muslim cleric sexually abused eight-year old boy, threatened him with dire consequence if he tried to expose him

For more on pedophilia in Islam, click here.

According to the documents, Behram*, a resident of Nankana Sahib district, filed an application against the police for not arresting Shahid*, a cleric who allegedly abused his son Nazeer*, a student at a seminary run by the accused.

“On July 7, 2013 my son went to the madrassah and was sexually abused by Shahid. He also threatened the child with dire consequence if he tried to expose the issue,” he alleged.

The complainant maintained that after the incident, his son was reluctant to go to the madrassah, and only told his parents about the incident when his mother insisted on him going. “He couldn’t control his tears while narrating the incident to his mother,” he said.

He further added that the police initially refused to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the cleric, but after his efforts, on August 20, 2013, the police registered a case after a medical report proved that the child had been sexually abused.

“Despite the FIR, the police are still reluctant to arrest him. They are helping Shahid in trying to hush-up the case,” he said, adding that the police were allegedly bribed by Shahid, who also happens to be quite wealthy.

The complainant stated that he had submitted numerous applications with the Sheikhpura regional police officer, Inspector General of the Punjab Police and the Nakana Sahib district police officer, but lack of action on their behalf forced him to approach the SC Human Rights Cell...

UK: Former male soldier Britain’s first transgender Muslim woman, victimised by worhippers at local mosque and banned

A former trained soldier has swapped her Territorial Army beret for a veil and become Britain's first transgender Muslim woman.

Lucy Vallender used to be called Laurens and says she is finally 'true to herself' after a sex change three years ago. The 28-year-old is now married to a Muslim man she met on an online dating site, but he did not know she was once a man when they wed.

She now wears a full veil outside her Swindon home to show the world she is married.

The former labourer said 'she used to love firing guns' and claims she drank regularly with the other squaddies as a TA private, but Lucy knew at 14 she wanted to become a woman.

'I tried to do macho things you know to stop how I was thinking, but it didn't work because I was trying to be someone I wasn't,' she said.

'I felt differently to others - I was attracted to men.

'But I suppressed my feelings and tried to live like most people my age.

'I'd go out clubbing with friends and drink a lot of alcohol.

'I had girlfriends too, but it would never get physical and always fizzled out after a couple of months.

'Joining the TA was my final attempt at trying to fit in to that kind of life but I couldn't handle it anymore and left after about a year.

'I felt like I was in the wrong body. To carry on living as a male was living a lie.'
. . .
In another major life change, she then converted to Islam because it promoted peace last September.

'I had thought about it for a while but it is such a taboo I thought,' she said.

'But I did it because it is a nice religion - so peaceful.

'I felt good and I had something to believe in.

'I felt happy and relieved at last - the happiest I've ever felt in my life.'

Her conversion to Islam followed last Autumn and then she married Murad at a small ceremony at his home in London.

'I love him, he's kind and soft spoken,' she said.

'I've seen him twice since the wedding . When I do we have sex.

'I didn't tell him I was transsexual but he must have suspected it as he he's seen my scars.'

But she has run into trouble with her local mosque in Swindon, Wiltshire, as they would not let her pray with the other women.

Miss Vallender says she has been victimised by worhippers, who she says have asked her personal, and banned her because she is a transexual, and she wants to 'get justice' for transgender and Muslim people.

'They say I am the first transgender Muslim but I bet there are more - they are just frightened,' she said.

'The way they treated me was disgusting.

'They asked me questions about my bra cup size, asked about my Adam's apple, about my period and asked to see my birth certificate.

'They said I had to pray with the men so I left and pray at home instead.

'I hope people will change their attitudes and other people like me will realise they are free to just be themselves.'
. . .

A spokesman for Swindon Mosque said: 'Everybody is welcome, as long as they behave according to Islam.'

Pakistan: 11-year old girl sold by her father to a 38-year old man escapes

For more on child marriage in Islam, click here.

Saima* had been married off to Ehsan Ahmed, 38, a resident of 9/3-R Haroon Abaad, Bahawalnagar, three months ago. Her father Muhammad Bashir, a resident of 38/14-L Kassowal, Chichawatni, had, according to Ahmed’s statement to the police, received Rs115,000 in exchange for her.

Saima told police that she had been chained and sent off with Ahmed, who she said, used to keep her locked up. She said his sister Moonda Bibi would beat her up regularly.

She said that she fled from Ahmed’s house and went to the Haroon Abaad bus station so she could take a bus back home. However, her in-laws followed her and tried to take her back. Saima then began crying and shouting for help and the people at the bus station called the City police.

The police took her into custody and began investigations. They have arrested Ahmed and his sister. Ahmed told police that he had married Saima so he could save her from her father, who was addicted to drugs.

Saima told police that she had not been allowed to go to school and that she wanted to study.

Police have sent a team to Chichawatni to apprehend the girl’s father and collect more evidence in the matter.

Pakistan: Woman commits suicide by jumping into canal with baby daughter after discovering husband’s second marriage

Police said Aasiya Bibi had married Muhammad Shafiq, a resident of 67/15-L, two years ago. The couple had had a baby girl in June.

On Monday, police said, Aasiya Bibi found out through a neighbour that Shafiq had married another woman three days ago in the nearby Wajhianwala village.

Police quoted Aasiya Bibi’s parents as saying that she had asked Shafiq to divorce his second wife, but he had refused, saying that he could afford to keep both of them.

This had led to an argument that ended in him leaving the house.

Her parents said she thought he had abandoned her. They said she had called them and informed them about Shafiq’s second marriage.

They said, “She was crying and cursing her fate. We tried to calm her down and told her to wait for him to return. We asked her to be patient for the sake of the baby.”

They said they had also asked her to come over to their house for a few days. They said they assured her that they would talk to Shafiq to find a way out.

A few hours later, they said, they were informed that she had jumped into Mailsi Link Canal taking her daughter with her...

Indonesia: New regulation in Situbondo requires all Muslim public servants to recite an Islamic prayer together before work

For Situbondo District Chief Dadang Wigiarto, it is important that employees gather in the mosque to recite the 'Sholat berjamaah' or common prayer in the local language, except staff on holiday or menstruating women.

In response to this, a group of district officials filed a formal complaint against the regulation; saying that praying is "personal" in nature and that no one can claim the power to impose it.

Syaiful Bahri, a member of the regional assembly, is leading the fight against compulsory prayer for public officials that District Chief Dadang Wigiarto imposed on 26 August 2013.

In his view, 'Sholat' has no connection with the government and no state body "may legislate" on the subject.

The recitation of the prayer, he insists, "gives no guarantee" that public officials will carry out their jobs better. It is a real "interference", as well as an abuse of power, by higher-ranking government officials in the lives of citizens and workers.

Across the country, the practice of Sholat berjamaah is not regulated by laws or regulations. In Situbondo District, officials often meet to pray at the Al-Abror mosque, which is located within the administrative district in the city centre.

However, the district boss is convinced that praying can improve the quality of work thanks "to a sort of divine intervention by Allah."

When they leave the mosque after the daily prayer, officials are required to sign a register to show that they complied with the requirement.

Human rights activists and secularist movements are deeply critical of the rulle. Subhi, a researcher at the Wahid Institute, is one of the many voices opposed to the regulation, claiming that it is "a serious violation of human rights and the free practice of religion."

Prayer, in his view, is a "strictly personal" thing that "cannot be regulated by any rule" and should not entail any "punishment".

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Although it includes personal freedoms (including freedom of religion) among its basic constitutional principles, it has become more and more the scene of violence and abusive behaviour against minorities, including Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or others.

Although Aceh is the only province in the country that enforces Islamic law, the influence of the Muslim religion is becoming more radical and extreme in the lives of citizens in many other parts of the archipelago.

Extremist groups like the Islamic Defenders Front and the Indonesian Ulema Council have led this 'Islamisation' campaign. Inspired by the Sharia, they have tried to impose their views in different domains, ranging from a ban on alcohol to restrictions in the area of sexual morality.

UK: Sikh girls are being preyed upon by gangs of Muslim men who subject them to horrific sexual abuse, a BBC investigation has uncovered

For more on pedophilia in Islam, click here.

In many cases the men deceive the girls into believing that they are Sikh to gain their trust.

Desperate to hide their secret for fear of bringing shame to their families, girls are often forced to leave home.

Reporter Chris Rogers travels to a remote part of America where he meets a 16-year-old British Sikh girl who was groomed and sexually abused over a period of time by a Muslim gang.

She is one of at least a dozen British Sikh girls living abroad hiding their secret.

Inside Out is broadcast on Monday, 2 September at 19:30 BST on BBC One London, West Midlands and East Midlands. It is also available nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

Tunisia: French imam known for promoting Jewish-Muslim relations assaulted by a man who called him a “Zionist”

For more on Antisemitism, click here.

The attacker of Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy near Paris, punched him in the chest and shoved him to the ground on Sunday near Hotel Gammarth near Tunis, the capital of Tunisia.

“He insulted me, called me a ‘Zionist and collaborator’ and then he hit me,” Chalghoumi was quoted Monday as telling Le Parisien daily. Chalghoumi was assaulted in front of his wife and children, who also were hit by the unnamed attacker, the report said.

According to the report, the man, who addressed Chalghoumi in French, was detained by hotel staffers and arrested by police. Chalghoumi was taken to hospital after the incident, according to the French news agency AFP. Neither he nor his family members sustained serious injuries.

Chalghoumi, who is well-known in France for his involvement in interfaith forums and initiatives, has received many death threats in France for his friendly ties with CRIF, the umbrella group representing French Jewish communities, and for visiting Israel several times.

Pakistan: 40 Christian families face hunger after Gojra elopement dispute

Last month was the fourth anniversary of one of the worst outbreaks of violence against Pakistan's minority Christian community in the country's recent past. In August 2009, seven Christians were burned to death in Gojra, while more than 100 houses were looted, ransacked and then set on fire.

Four years on, the situation remains bleak. In July, World Watch Monitor reported that a Christian in Gojra was convicted of committing blasphemy, while a couple was arrested for sending blasphemous text messages. Another Christian was shot dead in a nearby town later that month.

In such a climate, even a relatively common occurrence, the 'elopement' of a 20-year-old Christian man and a 17-year-old Muslim woman, has resulted in a charge of gang rape, as well as the loss of livelihood for 40 Christian families. Their Muslim neighbours and landlords now refuse to hire them for daily work in their fields; a local activist says the families risk starvation.

Umair Masih, 20, eloped with his girlfriend Nadia Shabir, 17, on the evening of July 27. Both were residents of Chak (village) 375 JB, district Toba Tek Singh, about 15 kilometres from Gojra. The village consists of about 40 Christian families and 500 Muslim families.

In countries such as Pakistan where arranged marriages are still usually the norm among rural communities, young couples often leave home together, sometimes on a whim, sometimes in a determined attempt to be allowed to have their affection for each other taken seriously by their families, and sometimes as an act of desperation.

In many such elopements, local communities, and especially close family members, manage to follow and find the couple and bring them back to their families. Sometimes they are punished. It is always a scandal within the village, but the aftermath is usually confined within the family relationships of those directly involved.

Here, however, dozens of locals came out onto the road and resorted to firing guns into the air soon after they found the couple was missing. They first searched for them in the fields and then came to the houses of the Christians. The group forcibly entered their houses and told the Christians that they would take their all young women along with them to humiliate them. The mob also threatened to set their houses on fire and banish them all from the village.

The mob then decided to take along Masih's three sisters, Saba, Chanda and Mariam, and their mother Shehnaz Bibi, and to publicly humiliate them. Finally, they settled on taking Saba and Chanda along with them.

"They hit the door with the butts of their guns and forcibly entered in the house. They started beating my father and called us names," 18-year-old Saba told World Watch Monitor. Then they dragged Saba and Chanda out of the house and took them to a farmhouse.

"Dozens of men were present there. They hurled abuse at us but when some men started indecently touching us, a few of the elderly men objected to it, so they refrained from sexually assaulting us," added 16-year-old Chanda to our reporter. "We remained tied there until the next day without food and water," she said.

After the couple's elopement, relations between the Christians and the majority became tense.

The next day, a village arbitrary council (panchayyat) decided Saba and Chanda would be returned to the family, and in exchange Nadia would return to her father. The council also decided that Umair Masih would no more live in the village. Masih's father, Tufail Masih, agreed to all these conditions.

Contrary to their agreement with the council, the Muslim group then filed a writ petition in the court for the registration of a case alleging that Umair Masih and four of his family members had forcibly abducted Nadia and gang raped her. Apart from this legal action, they threatened to "spill Christians' blood" in the village to avenge the "insult" inflicted on them by Nadia's elopement.

Having in mind the history of communal strife in their area, the Christians then filed a writ petition before the Toba Tek Singh Additional Sessions judge and requested an order to the police of Saddar Police Station to register a case against the Muslim group for threatening to kill them. The judge issued an order the same day, calling the police to register a case against the group.

Since then, the police have been trying to strike a compromise deal between the Christians and the Muslim group, said Munir Masih Gill, a social activist of the village. He said that even if the legal matter was resolved, the social boycott still continued. He said almost all the Christians are poor and illiterate, and are hired by the Muslim landlords in their fields on a daily wage. They are also facing a shortage of food because of the boycott, he said.

Egypt: Terrorist staged an unsuccessful attack on a container ship passing through the Suez Canal

A “terrorist” staged an unsuccessful attack on a container ship passing through the Suez Canal on Saturday, in an attempt to disrupt the flow of ships through the waterway, the head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Memish said on Saturday.

The Suez Canal is a key global shipping line.

“The attempt failed completely and there was no damage to the ship or the containers it carried. The situation was dealt with strictly by the armed forces,” Memish said in a statement.

The statement did not specify what kind of attack it was but shipping sources told Reuters they heard the sound of two explosions as the ship passed through the waterway.

Israel: Hamas recruits admit to planning attack at Mamilla Mall, slated to take place during the Jewish holiday

Two men, aged 22 and 25, have confessed to planning a terror attack in Jerusalem at the Mamilla Mall, near the Old City, police sources revealed on Sunday.

The men are residents of Shuafat and Ras al-Amoud, two East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and therefore have blue Israeli identity cards, allowing them access to Jerusalem without going through the security check that most West Bank Palestinians must undergo.

They were apprehended several weeks ago in a combined operation of the Israel Police, Border Police, IDF and the Shin Bet security agency.

The suspects were reportedly recruited by a Hamas cell operating out of Ramallah. In the course of the operation, the IDF uncovered the Ramallah cell’s bomb-making facility.

Three additional men, apparently from the Hamas cell, were arrested in connection with the plot, which was already at an advanced stage of planning when it was foiled, according to police...

Pakistan: Christian widow terrorized by husband’s Muslim family, threatened with death if she doesn't convert to Islam

" When I got married , the relatives [ of my husband ] have begun to exert pressure so that I convert [to Islam]. But my husband stood up for me , saying that ' my wife and my children should feel free to profess their faith ' . However, after his death his brothers have begun to terrorize us. They have sworn to kill us if we do not convert to Islam. " This is the dramatic and desperate appeal of a Christian woman and widow. Her husband was a forward-looking man, a Muslim but convinced defender of the right to religious freedom. She however is now in danger of being killed by his family members.

The marriage between Muhammad Sadiq Masih and Martha Bibi withstood years of pressure and threats from the man's relatives, contrary to a bond with an " unbeliever". The pair remained united and over time became parents to three girls and one boy. The daughters were married to men from Christian families - a fragile and often persecuted minority in Pakistan - and decided to keep the faith of their mother.

However, after the father's death, the girls began to receive threats and pressures from his brothers [ Islamists ] to convert. The eldest daughter Nosheen Afzal , who is married with Kamran Afzal , has suffered direct and personal threats from family members. An uncle branded them as "infidels," because they live as Christians even though (the girl ) is the daughter of a Muslim . To escape the retaliation they had to leave their home the next night - in haste and in secret.

In recent days, her sisters were also targeted by relatives , with threats and pressures. For this reason the mother Martha Bibi turned to a pro human rights organization , including the Masihi Foundation, asking for protection and help. Denouncing the growing "climate of intolerance," the foundation 's legal team immediately took steps lodging a complaint with the competent authorities, even asking protection for the family. Fr. Robin John , a priest of the Archdiocese of Lahore and activist demands their right to religious freedom and recalls the example provided by the family's father who, though Muslim , he never wanted to impose his faith on his children . "This also allowed them to live happily ."

With a population of over 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and the second Muslim nation after Indonesia. Just under 80 per cent are Sunni Muslim, and 20 per cent are Shia. Hindus are around 1.85 per cent; Christians are 1.6 per cent and Sikhs 0.04 per cent. Violence against ethnic or religious minorities is commonplace across the country, from the province of Punjab in the north to Karachi in the southern province of Sindh, where more than 2,200 people were killed in the first eight months of 2012.

Algeria: Survivors of January's siege of a gas plant speak about their ordeal

For earlier news on the same subject, click here.

The survivors of January's siege of an Algerian gas plant still cannot believe they are alive. Forty of their colleagues died when Islamic militants took them hostage. The Algerian army opened fire on the convoy of hostages and terrorists as they broke out of the plant. It is only now that some have felt able to tell their stories.

For BP team leader Lou Fear and his wife Lori at home in the UK, the morning of 16 January 2013 began as usual with a text message from Lou. But the content was anything but normal.

It told her terrorists were roaming around - the plant was under attack. Lou was barricaded in his office with some colleagues and hiding behind a filing cabinet. The militants were just outside.

"Somebody tried the door handle and they were saying, 'Come out, come out, we're friends,' in Arabic," says Lou. "I would never have believed it would be a terrorist attack. It was incomprehensible, but it was real."

"My world just froze… I couldn't think what to do," says Lori, thousands of miles away in Lincolnshire.

"I didn't know what circumstances he was in, if he was close to the terrorists, if they could hear the beep of the messages come in. I did not dare to reply to it. Maybe I would give away his hiding place."

Lori did decide to send a few messages but did not do it too often because of the noise. In one message she begged Lou to send a text to their children. He broke down and cried. He could only deal with his wife at this fraught moment.
. . .
Three dozen terrorists from the Signed in Blood Battalion linked to al-Qaeda had taken Algerian military police, responsible for security, completely by surprise. First they attacked a bus carrying workers just outside the compound then broke into the plant itself.

Nick Hitch, BP project general manager, was in the living quarters. He was seized by terrorists searching room by room for expatriate workers. Nick was shocked to recognise a cook who worked inside the plant.

"It was clear that it was an inside job," says Nick. "There were 20 or 30 Algerians who were clearly assisting the terrorists and very friendly with them and even came when we were held hostage, to look at us as if we were in the zoo."...

Australia: Federal election candidate claims Muslims are targeting Aborigines and paying them to convert to Islam

A federal election candidate in western Queensland has accused Muslims of paying Aborigines to convert to Islam.

Speaking to ABC Western Queensland, Rise Up Australia candidate Pam Hecht said the biggest issue facing people in the electorate of Kennedy, which Bob Katter holds by 18.3 per cent, was the conversion of Indigenous people to Islam.

"I don't know whether people are aware, but many of the Aboriginal people in northern Australia are being targeted by Muslims and in some cases are being paid to convert to Islam," she said, describing herself and the electorate as "farmers . . . just ordinary everyday people, who want to be free to go about our business".

"Our concern with that is, the Muslim belief, that converting the first peoples of the land to Islam means that the land belongs to Allah, and Islam should be the only religion.

"There is an Aboriginal lady who works with the people up in northern Australia and she has spoken directly with the leader of our party, Daniel Nalliah [and told him about the practice]."

Of the 340,393 Australians who identified as Muslims in the 2006 Census, just 1011 were Indigenous.

Comparatively, 290,630 Indigenous people identified as Christian.

Academics believe Aborigines came into contact with those who practised the Islamic faith even before they came into contact with Christianity, first through trade links with Indonesia and later through cameleers.

Mr Nalliah, the leader of Rise Up Australia, states in his Catch the Fire Ministries biography, that he first knew the Lord had called him after an Australian missionary visited his Sri Lankan town in 1976...

Egypt: Video shows Muslim mob attacking church, setting cars on fire and then toppling a cross atop the steeple

Newly-surfaced video from Egypt shows a Muslim mob storming a Coptic church, setting cars on fire and then toppling a cross atop the steeple, in a shocking attack that Christians say has been played out dozens of times since the ouster of Mohammad Morsi.

The video, obtained by MidEast Christian News, was shot Aug. 14 from a nearby building overlooking the diocese in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag. In the six-minute video, a crowd, incensed by the eviction of pro-Morsi supporters from camps in Cairo, masses outside the church. Several members of the group scale a wall and attack vehicles in a courtyard, setting several ablaze. The video culminates in the crown exhorting a man high up on the steeple to take down a cross, which he does.

Dozens of Coptic churches were attacked by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the military’s move against Morsi, who critics say was turning Egypt into an Islamist state. Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million, but Morsi supporters blamed them for his ouster, according to Coptic leaders.

Bishop Makarious, a Coptic leader from Minya, accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders of planning attacks on Christian churches, homes and businesses in an effort to divide the embattled nation.
. . .
The provisional military government has pledged to rebuild Christian churches destroyed by mobs.


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