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Damage reported as mini tornado barrels through Free State

A mini tornado touched down near Bloemfontein in the Free State on election day.

Reports circulating on social media places the tornado in Waterbron, northwest of Bloemfontein, at around 4pm.

A resident told the Bloemfontein Courant that a roof was ripped off.

There have been reports of uprooted trees, as well as damage to power lines and farming equipment.

Storm damage was also reported around Petrusburg and Koffiefontein as a band of thunderstorms moved eastwards over central South Africa.

“There was a band of thunderstorms moving eastwards over central South Africa. On this particular day, all the necessary ingredients for thunderstorms were present,” said eNCA meteorologist Anika de Beer.

“Tornadoes are not uncommon in South Africa, but the occurrence of severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are most likely in summer.”

 

Source : ENCA

IEC warns voters not to remove indelible ink or face jail

The IEC has warned voters not to remove the indelible ink from their thumbs.

“The Electoral Commission has also noted media and social media reports of voters who have attempted or apparently been able to remove the indelible ink on their thumbs. The indelible ink is one of a number of security checks and safeguards built into election process,” said IEC CEO, Sy Mamabolo.

“The commission wishes to remind all voters that any attempt to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, including attempting to remove the indelible ink constitute an electoral offence, which is punishable upon conviction by sentence of 10-years in jail,” he added.

Mambolo thanked voters for coming out to vote.

He said voting kicked off on a positive start.

Did you know?

It’s a criminal offence to photograph a marked ballot. According to the IEC, this is to protect the secrecy of your vote and that of others. If found guilty of this offence, you could face a fine or up to a year in jail.

 

Source : ENCA

saudi flag

Saudi prince calls for boycott of Turkey

Saudi Prince Abdullah Bin Sultan Al Saud has called for a boycott of Turkish products until “Ankara reviews its policies with the kingdom”.

Al Saud shared on his Twitter account a video in which Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, the prince of Riyadh, is seen refusing to drink coffee offered to him after he learned that it was made in Turkey.

“I, as a Saudi citizen, announce today that I will boycott any product made in Turkey or even which passed through Turkish customs until it [Turkey] amends its policy with us… Neither we nor our government needs them and their products,” he said.

Al Saud shared on his Twitter account a video in which Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, the prince of Riyadh, is seen refusing to drink coffee offered to him after he learned that it was made in Turkey.

“I, as a Saudi citizen, announce today that I will boycott any product made in Turkey or even which passed through Turkish customs until it [Turkey] amends its policy with us… Neither we nor our government needs them and their products,” he said.

Social media users mocked the prince’s call and demanded him to boycott US products instead after what they said was President Donald Trump’s recent insult to the king.

In recent months Trump has repeatedly said he has called on Saudi King Salman and made demands which have been met, weakening the monarch’s position globally. In October last year, Trump said he told the king: “King, we’re protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military; you have to pay.”

Ties between Saudi and Turkey became strained in 2013 after Ankara supported the Muslim Brotherhood which was ousted from Egypt in a military coup backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Relations felt another blow after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October last year. Turkey said it had proof that leading figures in the ruling family ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

Source : MEMO

Palestine Flag

Palestinian PM urges UN to ensure cessation of Israeli onslaught on Gaza

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged the United Nations to immediately intervene to halt and ensure a cessation of the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
“The international community cannot remain as a silent observer in the face of the Israeli occupation crimes against Palestinian civilians and cannot take a neutral stance in the face of photographs of the bodies of Palestinian children,” stated Shtayyeh during the weekly cabinet session in Ramallah on Monday.
“We do not accept statements that put the perpetrator and the victim on an equal footing,” he stressed, pointing out that President Mahmoud Abbas made extensive contacts with a range of regional and international actors overnight in an attempt to bring to a halt the Israeli onslaught on Gaza.
The premier welcomed all efforts aimed to secure a ceasefire agreement, especially the Egyptian-led efforts. He emphasized the importance of strengthening Palestinian national unity to confront the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and noted the government’s keenness to shoulder its responsibility in terms of providing relief aid to the population of the besieged enclave.

Source : AB/UNA-OIC

Trump working to designate Muslim Brotherhood as ‘terror’ group

The Trump administration is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign “terrorist” organisation, the White House has said on Tuesday, which would bring sanctions against Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement.

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

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had urged US President Donald Trump to take the step during an April 9 visit to the White House, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing officials familiar with the matter.

After the meeting, Trump praised Sisi as a “great president,” as a bipartisan group of US politicians raised concerns about Sisi’s record on human rights.

The Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan al-Muslimeen, is a revivalist Islamic movement, formed in Egypt in 1928.

One of the oldest and most influential Islamic movements in the world, the Brotherhood was declared a “terror group” by Egypt in 2013 after el-Sisi led a military coup against Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member and the country’s first democratically-elected president.

The Brotherhood came to power in Egypt’s first modern free election in 2012, a year after long-serving President Hosni Mubarak resigned amid a popular uprising.

Possible consequences for US groups

The coup set in motion a violent crackdown against the organisation, with thousands of the group’s members arrested, and hundreds sentenced to death in what human rights groups have described as sham trials.

Two of Egypt’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, also blacklisted the group but several western powers, including the United States, did not, for both legal and policy reasons.

However since Trump’s election, the Sisi government has repeatedly urged the US to designate the group, and in March 2017, Cairo sent dozens of parliamentarians, former diplomats and international law experts to Washington to convince the US of a ban.

The New York Times said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton supported the idea. However, the Pentagon, career national security staff, government lawyers and diplomatic officials have voiced legal and policy objections, and have been scrambling to find a more limited step that would satisfy the White House.

The US State Department had previously advised against banning the movement because of its “loose-knit structure and far-flung political ties across the Middle East”.

Several political parties in Turkey, Tunisia and Jordan consider themselves as part of the Muslim Brotherhood or have ties to it.

The Times said it was also unclear what the consequences would be for Americans and American humanitarian organisations linked to the Brotherhood.

According to a 2004 article by The Washington Post, supporters of the Brotherhood “make up the US Islamic community’s most organised force” by running hundreds of mosques and business ventures, promoting civic activities, and setting up American Islamic organisations to defend and promote Islam.

Human rights groups have also voiced concerns that el-Sisi might use it to justify an even harsher crackdown against his opponents.

Source : Al Jazeera

ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appears in propaganda video

The elusive chief of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has appeared for the first time in five years in a propaganda video released by the armed group.

ISIL’s Al Furqan media network published on Monday what it said was a video message from its leader, in which he said the group would seek revenge for the killing and imprisonment of its fighters.

It was unclear when the footage was filmed but al-Baghdadi referred in the past tense to the months-long fight for Baghouz, ISIL’s final bastion in eastern Syria, that ended last month.

“The battle for Baghouz is over,” said the ISIL leader with a bushy grey beard and an assault weapon close by, sitting cross-legged on a cushion and addressing three men whose faces had been blurred.

Wearing a black robe with a beige vest, al-Baghdadi gave an 18-minute address.

The SITE Intelligence group said he also discussed the bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people on Easter Sunday in an audio recording after the video ends.

“Your brothers in Sri Lanka have healed the hearts of monotheists [ISIL members] with their suicide bombings, which shook the beds of the crusaders during Easter to avenge your
brothers in Baghouz,” he said.

‘More to come’

This was his first appearance in a video since delivering a sermon at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014. That speech marked the rise of the group and its self-declared “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.

In January of the same year, ISIL took the Syrian city of Raqqa as its de-facto capital. By June, the group had also captured Iraq’s second city of Mosul, with a population of two million people. It held both cities until 2017.

Grisly public executions were a regular occurrence in ISIL’s former areas, including burning people alive and beheadings.

At its peak in January 2015, ISIL controlled an area across Syria and Iraq roughly equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom and had attracted 40,000 fighters to its cause.

With a $25m US bounty on his head, al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man. Despite numerous claims about his death in the past few years, his whereabouts remain a mystery.

“Our battle today is a war of attrition to harm the enemy, and they should know that jihad will continue until doomsday,” al-Baghdadi said in the video.

The written script at the start of the video dated it to earlier in April. The authenticity and date of the recording could not be independently verified.

Al-Baghdadi has periodically issued audio statements. His last voice recording to supporters was released in August 2018 – eight months after Iraq announced it had defeated ISIL and US-backed forces closed in on the group in Syria.

In the video published on Monday, he insisted ISIL’s operations against the West were part of a “long battle” and the group would “take revenge” for its members who had been killed.

“There will be more to come after this battle,” said al-Baghdadi, apparently referring to the final fight in Baghouz.

The ‘caliphate’

Over the years, several armed groups outside the Middle East, including in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, have pledged allegiance to ISIL, claiming devastating attacks on both civilians and security personnel.

The United Nations in 2016 said at least 34 groups from around the world had pledged allegiance to the group.

Judit Neurink, journalist and author of The War of ISIS: On the Road to the Caliphate, said the video would send an important message to ISIL’s fighters that al-Baghdadi was “still there” at the head of the group.

“ISIS want to show Sri Lanka was how ‘we are going to be, we are going to be everywhere, no longer in Iraq and Syria, but all these different places where you have to watch out for us, all our people are going to attack in different places, the global jihad is a fact’,” Neurink added.

Nader Hashemi from the University of Denver said al-Baghdadi is trying to capitalize on the Sri Lanka massacre to draw attention to ISIL’s continued threat despite its defeat in the Middle East.

“This is also a huge embarrassment for Donald Trump’s administration. Just a few weeks ago, Trump was claiming, ‘mission accomplished’ and ‘the war is over’. This video clearly sends a message to the Americans – and Trump in particular – that the head of the organisation is very much alive,” Hashemi told Al Jazeera.

Source : Al Jazeera

Photo: ISIS media / Telegram

jumuah at al aqsa

Over 300 settlers storm Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Over 300 settlers yesterday stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, under the protection of Israeli police and armed forces.

From the early hours of the morning, groups of settlers entered the compound through Al-Maghrebi Gate, accompanied by members of the Israel Police and the Israeli army. Over the course of the day, some 320 settlers stormed the holy site.

The settlers then performed prayers and rituals to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, violating the status quo agreement which prohibits non-Muslims from worshipping at the site.

Israeli forces simultaneously imposed restrictions on Palestinian Muslim worshippers trying to access Al-Aqsa. According to local news agency Ma’an, “Israeli checkpoints were erected throughout the streets and alleyways around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and many others were blocked off with iron barriers and sandbags blocking the movement of locals.”

“Israeli forces [also] searched Muslim worshippers and checked their identity cards prior to allowing them entry to the compound,” Ma’an added.

Yesterday’s storming of the compound was not the only such incident this week. On Monday Israel’s Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, led a group of around 170 settlers onto the compound, again to perform prayers for Passover.

On Wednesday, over 500 settlers stormed the compound, according to Firas Al-Dibs, head of the public relations office at the Islamic Endowment Department (Waqf) which administers Al-Aqsa Mosque and its compound. Israel also issued bans for two Palestinian worshippers; Thaer Abu Sbeih and Rohi Kalghasi for six and four months respectively.

Palestine News Network estimates that since the Passover holiday began on 19 April, more than 1,600 settlers have stormed Al-Aqsa compound.

Tensions over Al-Aqsa Mosque have been high in recent months following Israel’s moves to stop Palestinian access to Bab Al-Rahma and the protests which followed. Though the gate had been sealed off by an Israeli military order since 2003, Israel in February added new locks to the door, violating the status quo agreement in the process. Palestinians protested against the change, later that month praying at the gate for the first time in 16 years after it was opened by the Waqf.

In March, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court accepted a request by Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, to extend the closure of Bab Al-Rahma. Palestinian factions slammed the move, with the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s Foreign Ministry saying in a statement the move “aims to consolidate the Israeli grip on the whole Al-Aqsa Mosque compound”.

Just this month, Jordan – to whom the Waqf and therefore responsibility for Al-Aqsa belongs – rejected a US proposal to mediate between it and Israel over Bab Al-Rahma. Jordan cited the US’ recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and its decision to move the US embassy to the Holy City as justification for its decision. It also pointed to the long-awaited “deal of the century” – the US-led peace plan which has been vehemently rejected by Jordan and other Arab states for its presumed bias in favour of Israel – as a reason for rejecting US mediation.

Source :MEMO

“MBS has no popular legitimacy”

By Ali Harb in Washington.
Saudi Arabia is not Mohammed bin Salman.

Alaoudh, a senior fellow at the center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington, is the son of Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Muslim scholar who was arrested in 2017 as a part of an intense crackdown on dissent in the kingdom.

Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Awda on ambiguous charges relating to defying the government, his son said.

Speaking to Middle East Eye after delivering a lecture at Georgetown earlier this week,  Alaoudh urged US officials to reach out to the Saudi public and speak to activists, intellectuals, economists and others who have been working to improve human rights conditions in the kingdom.

“It’s very dangerous and unwise to think that MBS is Saudi Arabia,” he said.

MBS and Kushner

Alaoudh denounced what he called Western indifference to the human rights abuses in the kingdom, including his father’s case.

“It’s really outrageous to see how silent a lot of people are, and it’s even more outrageous to see the West support him (MBS) despite all that happened, even when their own strategic interests are at stake.”

American support, Alaoudh said, is vital for bin Salman to maintain his rule.

“MBS has no popular legitimacy. He’s not elected. He doesn’t represent the public… He lacks that legitimacy and he knows that very well, so for this kind of ruler to exist, he needs to have backing from outside,” Alaoudh told MEE.

MBS has used his close relationship with US administration officials, namely Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, to “leverage his agenda”, Alaoudh said.

Indeed, MBS’s ties to Kushner have surfaced at many turning points of the crown prince’s career.

MBS was promoted to crown prince, replacing his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, in June 2017, a month after Donald Trump – accompanied by Kushner and his wife Ivanka among other US officials – visited Riyadh in his first foreign trip as president.

Late in October of that year, Kushner paid an unannounced visit to MBS, and days later the crown prince locked up dozens of his royal cousins as well as businessmen and religious leaders in a power-consolidating purge presented as an anti-corruption drive.

After Saudi agents murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Istanbul last October, Kushner continued to communicate with MBS despite global outrage.

Bin Salman and Kushner are on a “first-name basis”, the New York Times reported, citing White House officials, last year.

The two men may personally like each other, but they are also bound by mutual interests, Alaoudh said.

“MBS wants to be accepted by the West, and also that relationship was used by Jared Kushner to sell his ‘deal of the century’ plan,” Alaoudh said.

Executions

Although the Trump administration has maintained its unwavering support for bin Salman, cracks have been emerging in other US institutions’ relations with the kingdom.

In April, Congress passed a bill calling for an end to Washington’s support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Late in 2018, the CIA concluded that bin Salman ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, and all 100 senators passed a resolution backing that assessment.

Despite those rebukes, human rights violations have continued unabated in the kingdom. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia executed 37 citizens, mostly from the country’s Shia minority.

Alaoudh said pressure must be maintained on bin Salman to minimise his abuse. “If he goes unchecked, he would do every atrocity you think of,” he told MEE.

The son of the jailed Sunni cleric also condemned Tuesday’s executions, calling them “outrageous”.

MBS is unifying Saudis against himself, Alaoudh added.

“I’ve never seen such a platform, where the Shia and the Sunnis sit together to discuss the future of the kingdom. I’ve never seen such closeness between liberals and Islamists, between feminists and Islamists, between different factions of Saudi society coming together,” he said.

Still, the crown prince appears to have a firm grip on power, despite reports that members of the royal family are unhappy with his erratic behaviour.

Alaoudh contends that MBS is not wanted or well-liked within the royal family, but Saudi princes view attacks on the king and crown prince as a threat to the government itself and to their privileges as royals.

Case against Awda

Awda, Alaoudh’s father, had proposed sweeping changes to the ruling system in the kingdom in 2011, without stripping the royals of their power. His petition, which was co-signed by dozens of activists, called for a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislative council and independent judiciary without removing the king.

But since the rise of MBS, Awda had largely sent spiritual messages to his 14 million Twitter followers.

With the beginning of the Gulf crisis, where Saudi Arabia and its regional allies imposed a blockade on Qatar, Awda was asked to condemn Doha. He refused, asking the Saudi government to respect his silence.

In September 2017, amid signs of an easing of the crisis, the imam sent out a now-deleted tweet calling for rapprochement between Gulf leaders “for the good of their peoples”, without identifying them.

He was arrested the same week. Security forces also searched his home and found “banned books”, which Alaoudh said he owned.

As the trial against Awada proceeds, Alaoudh has been increasingly speaking out about his father’s plight in media appearances and by penning op-eds in major newspapers.

Alaoudh and his family have faced a backlash from the kingdom. The Saudi government has refused to renew his passport, and 17 members of his family were barred from travelling.

“We tried silence; it never worked. I’m always with the idea that only pressure works,” he told MEE.

With the murder of Khashoggi outside the kingdom, Alaoudh knows that his outspokenness may come at a personal cost, but that does not appear to faze him.

“I may have fears sometimes, but my principles are bigger than that,” he said, defiantly. “My decision to speak up is larger than that.”

Source: MEE
Feature Image : Pintrest

Syria: Probe finds at least 1,600 civilians killed in Raqqa by US-led coalition

A US-led military coalition killed thousands of civilians in Raqqa during its “indiscriminate” bombing campaign against the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, an investigation released on Thursday has found.

In a new joint report, the Airwars monitoring group and human rights advocate Amnesty International said the US-led coalition was responsible for the deaths of at least 1,600 civilians during its bombardment of northeastern Syria.

Both groups used open source data, which included thousands of social media posts and other material, to build a database of more than 1,600 civilians reportedly killed in coalition strikes between June to October 2017.

The organisations said they had gathered the names of more than 1,000 victims. Amnesty added that it had managed to directly verify 641 of these names on the ground in Raqqa, the eastern Syrian city IS was headquartered in.

The groups noted one incident where four families had been “wiped out in an instant” after the US-led coalition bombed a Raqqa neighbourhood on 25 September 2017.

“I saw my son die, burnt in the rubble in front of me. I’ve lost everyone dear to me,” Ayat Mohammed Jasem, a Raqqa resident, told a TV crew a year after the incident took place.

“My four children, my husband, my mother, my sister, my whole family. Wasn’t the goal to free the civilians? They were supposed to save us, to save our children.”

Throughout their investigations, Airwars and Amnesty said they regularly submitted evidence of civilian deaths to the US-led coalition.

This prompted the coalition, comprised of US, British and French armed forces, among others, to admit responsibility for killing 159 civilians. However, the military alliance dismissed the remainder of deaths reported as “non-credible”.

Investigation failures

Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, said the US-led coalition has failed to conduct an investigation into civilian deaths following its bombing campaign.

“The coalition’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to carry out proper investigations on the ground are part of a broader pattern of its failure to prioritise the protection of civilians to the extent that it could and should have,” Rovera told Middle East Eye.

“Many of the civilian victims of coalition strikes had already suffered at the hands of [IS], and in any case, the fight against [IS] does not lessen the need for civilian protection.”

She added: “For example, raining volleys of artillery shells – inaccurate to the point of being indiscriminate – all over neighbourhoods where there are civilians is never acceptable, regardless of who controls the territory.”

Earlier this year, Amnesty’s Strike Tracker project revealed that at least 11,218 buildings had been destroyed during the coalition’s bombardment of Raqqa.

The Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, backed by the US-led coalition, drove IS from Raqqa in 2017 after a protracted urban conflict.

The SDF declared a territorial victory against IS militants in Syria nearly a month ago, after expunging the group from its foothold in eastern Syria’s Baghouz.

Airwars and Amnesty added that they did not have the resources to properly investigate the full extent of civilian deaths and injuries in Raqqa.

They also called on members of the coalition to put in place an independent inquiry into civilian deaths and injuries.

In a statement, Col. Scott Rawlinson, spokesperson for the coalition, said the anti-IS alliance has been “open and transparent” in its reporting of civilian casualties.

“First and foremost, any unintentional loss of life during the defeat of Daesh [IS] is tragic. However, it must be balanced against the risk of enabling Daesh to continue terrorist activities, causing pain and suffering to anyone they choose,” he told MEE.

“According to our records, there have been 69 credible allegations out of Raqqa, resulting in 318 killed. Of note, there are still open allegations under investigation.

“Amnesty International provided us with 86 new allegations, 43 of which had already been assessed as credible and previously reported or were deemed not credible because the allegation did not corroborate with our strike records,” Rawlinson added.

“We requested that Amnesty International provide us with additional information on the remaining 43 allegations if they have it so that we would be able to determine whether we could conduct an investigation.”

Source: MEE
Feature Image: Amnesty International

Markaz Sahaba Online Radio releases it’s Ramadaan 1440 Broadcast schedule

Markaz Sahaba Online Radio is preparing to take on it’s second month of Ramadaan since its inception, which was on the 26th Rajab 1439.

The month of Ramadaan is almost upon us. Over the past year the team of Markaz Sahaba Online Radio have worked tirelessly in the upliftment of deen and upholding the truth in defending the belief structure of the Ahlus-Sunnah-Wal-Jama’ah. Under the guidance of renowned scholar Mufti Ak Hoosen, the team is once again prepared for yet another special broadcast for the holy month of Ramadaan. With the likes of Ramadaan Q & A, Live Local Taraweeh, International Taraweeh from Medinatul Munawara, Suhoor, Tafseer and much more, the team is prepared to bring it’s listeners another spiritually boosting broadcast.

The team has released it’s Ramadaan schedule in order for listeners to plan how they can attain maximum benefit during this Holy Month.

RAMADAAN 1440 BROADCAST SCHEDULE

The team also asks the listeners for their special duas that Allah (SWT) use us to uplift his deen.

You can also follow Markaz Sahaba Online Radio facebook page by clicking the link below

https://www.facebook.com/Markaz-Sahaba-Online-Radio-378401465989135/

Or follow us on twitter @Markaz_Sahaba

 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka Minister calls attacks ‘retaliation for Christchurch’ but gives no evidence

A Sri Lankan official is claiming that the Devastating Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were retaliation for attacks on mosques in New Zealand.

The so called Islamic State group, which has been condemned by many Islamic organizations around the world is claiming responsibility for the coordinated blasts that killed 321 people.

Islamic State’s claim, issued on its AMAQ news agency, came shortly after Sri Lanka said two domestic muslim groups, with suspected links to foreign fighters, were believed to have been behind the attacks at three churches and four hotels, which wounded about 500 people.

Islamic State gave no evidence for its claim.

The government has said at least seven suicide bombers were involved.

Junior minister for defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, told parliament that the initial investigation has revealed that this was in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack.

However he did not elaborate on why authorities believed there was a link to the killing of 50 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch during Friday prayers on March 15.

Police said that 40 people were now under arrest over the suicide bomb attacks – the worst atrocity since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended a decade ago.

The attacks were also the worst ever against the country’s small Christian minority, who make up just seven percent of its population of 21 million.

Investigators are now hunting for clues on whether the local muslim group named as the chief suspect – National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) – received “international support”, said cabinet minister and government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne.

The spokesman added that it was not possible for such “a small organisation” to carry out such well coordinated suicide strikes.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s office said there was intelligence that so called “international terror groups” were behind what he called “local terrorists” and that he would seek foreign help to investigate.

Two leading Sri Lankan Muslim groups issued statements condemning the attacks, with the All Ceylon Jamiyaathuul Ulama, a council of Muslim theologians, urging the “maximum punishment for everyone involved in these dastardly acts”.

Source: IOL
Feature Image : WSJ/AP

Israel bans Gaza Christians from going to Jerusalem, Bethlehem for Easter

Israeli occupation authorities refused to issue travel permits for hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Gaza who planned to visit holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during Passover, Safa news agency reported yesterday.

Reporting Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Safa said that Israel allowed only 200 Christians from Gaza, who are over 55 years old, to travel to Jordan only and did not issue permits for those wishing to visit the Church of Nativity in occupied Bethlehem or what is called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in occupied Jerusalem.

Israeli rights group Gisha reported complaints against the Israeli occupation regarding the restrictions imposed on people who want to travel during the Jewish Passover holiday which coincides with Easter.

“This is a flagrant violation of the freedom of movement, freedom of worship and freedom of enjoying family life for the Christians in Gaza,” Gisha said, noting that Gaza is an example of a “wider Israeli racist policy”.

According to Haaretz, Gisha said that this measure aims to deepen the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Source: MEMO
Feature Image : Faiz Abu Rmeleh – Anadolu Agency

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