Top Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan
April 25, 2015 _ 3:15 PM
Afghan officials say a senior commander of the Taliban militant group has been killed along with three of his comrades during an operation in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat.
Ahlul Bayt News Agency - Afghan officials say a senior commander of the Taliban militant group has been killed along with three of his comrades during an operation in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat.
General Mohammad Juma Adil, a commander of border police forces in western Afghanistan, said Mullah Mir Ahmad was killed along with three others when Afghan security forces launched a surprise attack on them in Ghoryan district of the province early on Saturday.
Adil added that the death of the Taliban commander would be a major setback for Taliban militants operating inside Herat and adjacent provinces.
Meanwhile, at least 15 Taliban militants were killed during clashes with Afghan security forces in the northern Kunduz province.
Provincial police chief Abdul Saboor Nusrati said the skirmishes broke out after Taliban terrorists attacked a number of security checkpoints in Ali Abad, Chahar Dara, Imam Sahib and Khan Abad districts of the province.
Nusrati added that two Taliban commanders, identified as Qari Rahimuddin and Mullah Tufan, were among the slain militants, noting that two Afghan police officers also lost their lives in the fighting.
Additionally, at least five civilians, among them four women, were killed and 11 others wounded when a rocket fired by suspected Taliban militants struck their house in the eastern Laghman province.
The provincial governor’s office said in a statement on Saturday that the incident took place in the Alingar district of the province on Friday night, and those injured have been shifted to nearby hospitals to receive medical treatment.
No individual or militant group has claimed responsibility for the act of violence.
On April 12, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report showing a rise in civilian deaths amid clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan government forces.
According to the UNAMA report, over 136 civilians were killed and more than 521 injured in the first quarter of the year.
Conrad Black: The pacifism of fools
April 25, 2015 | Last Updated: Apr 25 7:00 AM ET
What is Caplan’s plan of action for all these problems, and will the real Thomas Mulcair please stand up with him and stop waffling about helping refugees and avoiding mission creep?
It is hard to avoid the sinking feeling that former NDP federal secretary and national campaign chairman Gerald Caplan was speaking for his party and its current leader, Thomas Mulcair, in the Globe and Mail on April 17. Caplan wrote that our only problem with Muslim terrorists is their objection to America’s dispute with Saddam Hussein, after he seized Kuwait in 1990, was expelled from it, and defied 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions in support of the ceasefire at the end of the Gulf War. Caplan cited Osama bin Laden, entirely neutrally, when he denounced the “hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children who died from lack of food and medicine due to American sanctions;” the founder of al Qaeda, he explained, “resented the deployment of American forces throughout the Gulf states, particularly in his homeland, Saudi Arabia.”
Caplan further claimed that “Canadians were given the same reasons by Michel Zihaf-Bibeau, who murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial in Ottawa [that] his actions were spurred by Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Of course, that isn’t the same thing at all. Bin Laden was speaking in 2001, in the wake of the attacks he directed against the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, at which time there was no Canadian (or American) military involvement in Afghanistan; Canada’s only involvement in Iraq had been ten years before in an operation approved by the United Nations, NATO, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, and the Palestinian Authority (led by Yasser Arafat, who purported to donate blood to assist victims of bin Laden’s terrorist assault on the U.S.).
Apart from the fantastic exaggeration of the effect of international sanctions on Saddam Hussein, imposed by an almost unanimous United Nations for his violations of international law (hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children did not die, and food and medicine were largely exempted from the sanctions, which were porous anyway); and apart also from the Swiss cheese of inconsistencies created by Caplan’s explication of the motives for these massacres of innocent people (as bin Laden acknowledged them to be), are we to understand the former NDP campaign chairman attaches some credence and approval to these motives? Practically the only country that dissented from the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait was Jordan, whose opposition was based on King Hussein’s desire not to antagonize his Iraqi neighbour, not any approval of Saddam’s seizure of Kuwait.
Caplan is on safer ground alleging the hostility of Islamist militants to various longstanding U.S. policies, including recognition (along with the rest of the United Nations Security Council and most of its members) of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, as well as a modest American military presence in the Middle East, invariably at the request of the governments of the host countries, including several of the Gulf states, most conspicuously Saudi Arabia. The countries that requested Americanf military collaboration did so because they felt threatened by the ideological and sectarian soul mates of bin Laden, which was understandable given the attempted assassination of the Saudi royal family at the principal mosque in Mecca in 1979, and many other infiltrations. If Caplan believes that the United States has no right to defend what it considers to be its strategic interests when asked to do so by sovereign governments in the Arab world, and has no right to avenge itself against groups that have murdered thousands of its civilians in vile acts of terrorism, he is enunciating a version of pacifism that is entirely original.
Even Gandhi accepted the legitimacy of military action in certain circumstances (he had little objection to the great Japanese offensive in the Pacific starting in 1941), as did Nelson Mandela, former commander of “The Spear of the Nation.” Caplan has a point to the extent that he regards as simplistic the George W. Bush-Stephen Harper imputation of objections to democracy as the Muslim terrorists’ sole motive in their terrorist attacks on the West. But I believe it is widely understood that bin Laden and other terrorists have vehemently objected to any Western cultural influence in the Muslim world and have disputed the right of the Arab powers to develop military relations with the West, the U.S. in particular.
The readership of the Globe and Mail, and the democratic world generally, are not truth-starved and were not gasping in ignorance of this point awaiting enlightenment from the former NDP campaign chairman. Neither Bush nor Harper have denied this, and while I am not an apologist for them, they are entitled to mention other factors, and their record in countering terrorism has been very defensible. Caplan might wish to recall the bloodthirsty and blood-curdling videos that bin Laden released in the year following the 9/11 assault, promising much more of the same. Instead, despite his professed desire to die righteously and go to his reward in paradise, terrorist attacks in the West have been comparatively few, and bin Laden hid like an animal until he was found and executed by American forces in Pakistan. Doubtless, bin Laden objected to that American action too.
Caplan even dredges up Mir Aimal Kasi, who attacked several people in front of the CIA headquarters in 1993 as “retaliation” for “American support of Israel.”
Caplan goes on to quote, again with matter-of-fact neutrality, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber who tried to blow up a commercial airliner bound from Paris to Miami in 2001 “to help (expel) the oppressive American forces from the Muslim lands,” and one of the terrorists who blew up 202 tourists in Bali in 2001 in “revenge” for “what Americans have done to Muslims.” (The Bali bombs killed 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, 27 British citizens, and seven Americans, so it was a rather poorly targeted act of vengeance on Americans.)
Caplan even dredges up Mir Aimal Kasi, who attacked several people in front of the CIA headquarters in 1993 as “retaliation” for “American support of Israel.” He quotes the Guardian, a more anti-American news outlet even than Al Jazeera, to ascribe the evolution of the Houthi movement — bankrolled and supplied by Iran in the Yemeni civil war — from peaceful coexistence to its present militancy, because of the “2002 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.” Finally, the punch-line: ISIS (a “brutal movement”), is responding to “the humiliation that Muslims have suffered at the hands of foreign powers and local dictators ever since the First World War.” And: “Are there hard lessons here for Canada and its allies?”
I don’t think so. I think we knew all that, but the humiliations did not begin in 1918; they started with the expulsion of the Moors from France after the Battle of Tours in 732, continued through the expulsion from Spain, the repulse of the Turks from the gates of Vienna in 1529 and 1683 (all defeats of naked Muslim aggression), the French and British seizure of Egypt in the Napoleonic Wars, the colonization of North Africa in the Nineteenth Century, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and Anglo-French carve up of Arabia after 1918. The same sense of humiliation assimilated the British, American, and French discovery of oil in the Middle East cheerfully enough, but has never really accepted the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, nor other Christians in the Muslim world, much less a Jewish state.
We know all that too, and Stephen Harper and even George W. Bush know that. The solution for these antagonisms and the violence that results from them is better government in most of the Muslim world. But does Caplan, a learned authority on the Rwanda genocide, recommend Western appeasement of terrorists, the abandonment of the Muslim world to its most extreme inhabitants and the renunciation of any legitimate Western interest in it, including its Christian and Jewish minorities? Has he similarly no concern for the fate of nuclear non-proliferation, the region’s pro-Western governments, Europe and Japan’s oil supply, or the existence of a Jewish state in any borders? Where, if at all, do humanitarian considerations fit into this world view?
What is Caplan’s plan of action for all these problems, and will the real Thomas Mulcair please stand up with him and stop waffling about helping refugees and avoiding mission creep? These criminally diseased Islamist lunatics are attacking all civilization, including Muslim and Western civilization. We can’t just dump it on the Americans and respond with blankets, spam, pamphlets, rosewater, and sanctimonious obfuscation.
April 25, 2015: A month of air attacks by the Arab Coalition has done a lot of damage, killed about a thousand people (as many as half of them civilians) but the Shia rebels still control a third of the country, including the two largest cities (Sanaa and Aden). Losses from the ground fighting appear to be heavier but the air raids have done a lot of damage to the Shia rebels. At the same time the Shia rebels claim to be the only ones fighting AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) and ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) Islamic terrorists. That is generally true as these two groups are Sunni and hate Shia big time. ISIL and AQAP are also at war with each other but that seems to have been put aside for the moment because there are so many armed Shia to go after. Because of this de facto Islamic terrorist assistance counter-terrorism efforts by government forces (mostly in disarray anyway) and various Sunni tribal militias (who outnumber the Shia but are not united and often at odds with each other) have largely lapsed. The only ones fighting the Sunni Islamic terrorists are the Shia rebels and the Americans. The bombing and continued fighting has created another 150,000 refugees.
The Saudi coalition is using smart bombs and missiles and tried to avoid civilian casualties. But the Shia paid attention to past experience with this sort of thing and noted that using human shields worked against Western nations. So the Shia moved their bases into residential areas. Actually many of the Shia fighters already lived in residential areas. The Shia forces have captured many military bases but tended to loot and leave rather than occupy the base. Apparently the Arab pilots were not dissuaded by the human shields and attacked Shia forces wherever they could find them. The coalition air strikes also went after the many military bases controlled by commanders who were neutral or siding with rebels. A primary target in each base was its major weapons (tanks, artillery, ballistic missiles and air defense systems) and ammo supplies. This resulted in many spectacular secondary explosions as smart bombs triggered ammo to detonate.
The Saudi led Arab air coalition has launched 2,500 recon and attack sorties into Yemen since March 26th. No pilots have been lost, largely because smart bombs were used and that enabled the aircraft to remain high enough to be out of range of Shia anti-aircraft weapons (heavy machine-guns and shoulder fired missiles).
The Saudis have suffered casualties on the ground since March 26th. These losses have been small (less than a hundred dead and wounded), considering the number of men (over 20,000 troops) the Saudis have on that part of the border. The Saudis claim to have killed far more (over 500) Shia rebels in the same time but this appears to be a gross exaggeration. The western border area has been occupied by Shia tribes for centuries. The current border was only established, by force, in 1934 when the Saud family created Saudi Arabia. This was done with a tribal coalition organized and led by the Sauds. Some of those tribes were Shia and are just across the border from similar Shia tribes in Yemen. The Sauds have treated their Shia tribes well and the Saudi Shia obviously live better than their Yemeni cousins. That is largely why there has been no unrest from the Saudi Shia tribes. But the Yemeni Shia have always believed that the way the Sauds drew the border 80 years ago unfairly stole some land belonging to the Yemeni Shia and now these long simmering disputes have erupted into border skirmishes. While the Saudis have more armed men on the border, men who are better trained and armed than the Yemeni Shia, these Yemeni Shia have combat experience and won skirmishes in 2009 that the Saudis have not forgotten. An investigation of the 2009 defeat revealed more of what Western (mainly American) military trainers and advisors have been saying for years; officers and NCOs are not good quality and there is little pressure from the top to improve. The same can be said for most Saudi troops. The problem is that military service is not popular as there are easier ways for a Saudi citizen to make a living (government job or unemployment benefits) and many members of the military would quit if pressured to improve their performance. The Saudis try to make up for this by purchasing all the newest and most capable weapons money can buy. That really doesn’t work well for the ground forces, although Saudi troops do have basic skills and respond to patriotic appeals, especially the danger of invasion, especially one leading an Iranian takeover of Saudi oil. So on the Yemen border Saudi troops manning artillery and mortars manage to fire accurately at Shia rebels facing them. But close combat is another matter.
These 2009 defeats (which were officially, at least in Saudi media, victories or stalemates) were very embarrassing for the Saudi monarchy because there were at least 109 Saudi dead and many more wounded and these injuries and funerals could not be completely covered up. The king does not want more such defeats. The Shia rebels tried to make something of their psychological edge by threatening to invade Saudi Arabia if the air campaign were not halted. The Saudis countered that by ordering their troops on the border to not advance, but not to retreat either and to use their superior firepower to defeat any Shia advance. That was good for the morale of Saudis troops who knew that strategy gave them an edge and greatly reduced potential Saudi casualties. The Shia rebels did the same calculation and have not attempted a major ground advance into Saudi Arabia. There have been some small night raids, apparently all or mostly by Shia and apparently none of these have succeeded. The Saudi troops have night vision equipment, so as long as those on duty at night stay awake the Shia raids will continue to fail.
The coalition air strikes have weakened or distracted the Shia rebels sufficiently to turn the tide of this war. Tribal militias have been able to hold onto their territory and retake some areas earlier lost to the Shia. More army units have decided to back president Hadi or, if they were fighting for the Shia rebels, became neutral or disbanded. The Saudis may not be a military superpower but they have weapons and cash and know how to use both to some effect. Interested parties in Yemen are taking that into account and backing away from the Shia rebels.
ISIL put a video online proclaiming the establishment of a branch in Yemen. There has been some ISIL activity in Yemen since late 2014 and in March ISIL suicide bombers attacked two Shia mosques in Sanaa during prayers, killing 137 and wounding over 300 others. The worshippers blamed the United States and Israel, who are believed by many Moslems to have created ISIL to harm Islam. But the videos and growing evidence from dead or captured ISIL men makes it clear that ISIL is a local product not another American cultural import. That revelation is also unpopular in the Moslem world. In any event the new, and more likely true, conspiracy is that some of the Sunni tribal forces and government units are quietly cooperating with the Islamic terrorists against the Shia rebels.
Former president Saleh, the target of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising in Yemen, is now trying to broker a peace deal and thus regain much political power and possibly become president again. Despite being a Shia himself Saleh managed to assemble a coalition of largely Sunni groups that kept him in power for decades. That coalition fell apart in 2011 and Saleh was deposed in 2012, after he had negotiated amnesty for himself. He was replaced by Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi after elections the Shia insisted were unfair (but international observers considered fair).
Saleh did not go into exile but stayed in Yemen and quietly cultivated members of his former ruling coalition that were still loyal to him. While Saleh and the Shia rebels kept quiet about this alliance, it was obvious that Saleh had persuaded many of the military officers who benefitted from Saleh patronage (and that’s a lot of officers) to keep their units either neutral or willing to fight alongside the rebels. This is all the result of the corruption and tribal rivalries Saleh exploited so expertly for decades to stay in power. The Shia rebels made a big deal of attempting to change that but this laudable goal has been lost as a civil war developed that now involves Saudi Arabia, most Sunni Arab nations and Iran. This is Arabia and you make deals but when the deals go sour you scramble for a new arrangement. Thus many of the military commanders who sided with the Shia and Saleh are having second thoughts. Yemenis understand what is going on here as many corrupt military and police officers are themselves seeking amnesty by siding with the winner.
While the Shia still hold a third of the country the economy is collapsing, starvation is becoming a real threat and the rebels no longer appear to have a shot at winning. Saleh is now offering to negotiate, or help negotiate a peace deal acceptable to the major parties. It’s a sad commentary on the state of Yemeni politics when you realize that Saleh has a point, although he has pissed off too many Yemenis by now to become the next president. Despite that, Saleh will probably remain a powerful element in Yemeni politics.
The starvation threat is real and the result of most major shipping companies, which deliver most cargo (including most of the food) ordering their vessels to divert to other (non-Yemeni) ports. That should not be a problem as this often happens when there are major storms. But the situation in Yemen right now is worse than that. Most of the main roads into Yemen come from Saudi Arabia via northwest Yemen. But that is where the Shia rebels come from and those roads are subject to attack by Saudi warplanes and the Saudis have closed those border crossings. There is one main road not from Saudi Arabia and that comes from the east (Oman) and runs along the coast. Most of eastern Yemen (Hadramout province) is thinly populated but as you approach the more densely populated areas you reach parts of the coast controlled by al Qaeda. The major ports are all unavailable because most are either controlled by Shia rebels or Islamic terrorists. The largest port (Aden) is controlled by the government but the Shia rebels are currently inside the city trying to take control of the place. So the Port of Aden is off limits for the major shipping companies. Worse, the Shia rebels have blocked food from entering Aden by road in an effort to force the government defenders to surrender. While the battle for Aden has kept the Shia from claiming it as their own, all the violence has meant that Aden is no asset for the government either. For the residents of Aden, this battle is a catastrophe.
At the moment the only alternative is for cargo ships to go to a non-Yemen port and turn the cargo over to a local shipping company that is willing (for a higher fee) to risk going to a “disputed port” and deliver the cargo. The owners of the cargo, assuming they are not the government of Yemen, can then endeavor to deliver it to its customers (retailers or wholesalers). That will drive the costs up and delay deliveries. A lot of the food is foreign aid and the aid groups will have to negotiate with various warring parties before the aid can be delivered to the hungry Yemenis who need it. In anticipation of these delays the prices of food are already rising (doubling or more) in some places. People will go hungry and some will be hungry for a long time if they are in an area that is difficult for trucks to reach because of fighting or bandits. The UN is trying to negotiate some form of truce deal to allow food to reach a population that imports 90 percent of its food.
One minor victory for the Saudi led coalition (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt) has been the humiliation of Iran because Sudan joined the coalition. Sudan has been a long time (and well paid) ally of Iran. But the UN has indicted the Sudanese president for war crimes (for his massive attacks on Sudanese Moslem civilians in Darfur) and it was only the willingness of the Sunni Arab nations to restrain the UN that kept the Sudanese leader out of prison. Now it was payback time and Sudan paid their debt. At the same time the Saudis suffered a notable diplomatic defeat as well. Most Moslem majority nations (that contain most of the world’s Moslems) did not actively support the Arab coalition’s operation in Yemen. Most Moslems see this as an Arab-Iran dispute and feel no reason to get involved. Thus Saudi diplomats insist that Arabs are not at war with Iran, but with rebels in Yemen who happen to be Shia. At the same time Arab newspapers in the Gulf area are pointing out that non-Arab Moslem states need the oil-rich Arabs more than the other way around. That may be true, but few of those other Moslem states are willing to die for the Arabs.
Egyptian public opinion supported sending fighter-bombers and a few warships, but not ground troops, against Yemen. Too many Egyptians remember the last Egyptian involvement in a Yemeni civil war. That one got 10,000 Egyptian troops killed between 1962 and 1967 and is unfairly blamed for the Egyptian defeat in the 1967 war with Israel. Egypt’s new president (a former general) is not enthusiastic about sending troops into Yemen either but Egypt needs the loans and gifts from the wealthy Gulf oil states. Egypt has agreed to send troops to Saudi Arabia for “joint maneuvers” with Saudi forces. That will probably take place near the Yemen border and could quickly turn into the land invasion if the Saudis felt they had no other choice. The Gulf Arabs do have a legitimate reason for keeping a lot of their troops out of Yemen. Iran is more and more threatening and while Pakistan refused to send troops they did promise to come in with troops if Egypt were invaded. The only likely invader is Iran, so Pakistan, also dependent on Saudi generosity, has not entirely backed away. Besides, Pakistan is Sunni and has nukes which is some protection against threats from a future nuclear armed Shia Iran. Meanwhile the growing violence in Yemen has caused nearly 1,500 Egyptians to flee their jobs there and return to Egypt.
Al-Qaida execs said thinned by drones
By DECLAN WALSH The New York Times
Posted: April 25, 2015 at 3:25 a.m. Updated: April 24, 2015 at 10:03 p.m.
talian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni listens to opposition lawmakers at the Lower Chamber in Rome, Friday, April 24, 2015. Italy said Friday it wanted more information from the United States about how an Italian aid worker was killed in a U.S. drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistan border as officials sought to explain why it took three months to be told about the "tragic error." Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told Parliament in a hastily scheduled briefing that in an inaccessible war zone, where hostage-taking is frequent, it took that long for U.S. intelligence to verify Giovanni Lo Porto had been killed. (Maurizio Brambatti/ANSA via AP Photo)
What are our leaders doing about religious persecution?
Believers have an important part to play in society and the next government must be ready to embrace and defend them - not treat them with suspicion
Father Pius Qasha delivers a sermon at his church, St Joseph, in Baghdad Photo: Will Wintercross/The Telegraph
By Cardinal Vincent Nichols6:40AM BST 25 Apr 2015
The recent car bomb explosion in Erbil, in Iraq, came as a particular shock since only five days before I had been on that very street. My heart went out to those killed or injured in the blast. But online reactions were sharply divided: “Close 95 per cent of mosques, transform them into educational and social centres!” was one comment, “Terrorists do not have religion and want only to create hatred and confusion” was another.
Car bomb claimed by Isil kills three outside US consulate in Iraq's Kurdish capital.
They sum up the modern dilemma: is religion an enemy, a dreadful problem which we have to defeat or solve? Or it is a friend, a rich resource for our needed solutions and for our hope for the future?
The historical evidence is clear. Many of humanity’s greatest andnoblest achievements have sprung from faith in God. Countless lives of love and service of others have their origins in a depth of religious faith sustained through prayer and community living. This religious instinct to seek meaning and purpose in life seems intrinsic to humanity. In fact, freedom of religion is a fundamental human right because the religious dimension of our lives is central to how we understand ourselves and others.
But this is not a licence for irresponsibility; the right to religious freedom should never be used as a pretext to justify acts that violate the freedoms of others. We all bear a responsibility in working out the place of belief in contemporary society. Religious believers have to give a rational account of their faith – rational not in the narrow sense of “scientific”, but in the broader sense of appealing to and supported by our faculty for reasoned thought. This is its bulwark against fundamentalism. Religious leaders also have to make clear their opposition to irrational fundamentalism and the terrible destruction it ferments.
At the same time, society has a duty to respect the rights of believers. Their legitimate place in society needs to be acknowledged together with their role in forming and nurturing the human spirit, helping to shape and articulate the ethical principles by which a creative society is maintained. When, as a matter of secularist dogma, this respect is missing or denied, society is weakened since reciprocity and mutual trust are undermined.
Religious fundamentalism and secularist ideology are joint contributors to a dangerous spiral of mistrust and antagonism that makes lasting solutions more difficult to attain.
As the election approaches, it’s a good time to reiterate that people of all faiths seek a partnership with government in which their gifts, and responsibilities, can be used productively and with mutual respect, rather than be met with suspicion. All public institutions should recognise that faith is at the core of our society; something seen daily in the actions performed by devoted communities that help sustain the common good of all Britons.
This means that central and local government have certain responsibilities to fulfil. They should strive to understand the coherence of religious beliefs. They should recognise the role of that belief in education, based on parental wishes. They should provide adequately for the meeting of spiritual needs in public services.
They should engage in respectful partnership with religious bodies in the provision of support for the needy and the marginalised, and they should avoid legislative measures that effectively limit freedom of religious expression in matters that do not infringe or impede the rights of those who hold different views. The harassment of those who have wished to provide services in accordance with their beliefs, when alternative services are readily available, has been understandably seen as the pursuit of an ideology and not of the common good. We should be questioning candidates on all these matters.
Equally important is the readiness of a future British government to speak and act in defence of all endangered religious groups who are targeted, persecuted and killed precisely because of their beliefs – something I saw at first-hand with the Yezidi and Christian communities in Iraq. Any reluctance by a UK government to speak and act in this way, especially on behalf of Christian communities facing unprecedented persecution, would be particularly significant. It would undermine the mutual trust between our foremost religious faith and our public representatives that is so necessary for the wellbeing of our society.
The Catholic community in England and Wales is profoundly committed to the common good of our society. Alongside those of other faiths we make substantial contributions to the human capital on which our society depends and to the religious and spiritual capital that nurtures service and human resilience among families and communities today.
Our commitment to our society is clear. I hope that this election will be an opportunity for candidates and parties to make clear their commitment to these partnerships.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols is the Archbishop of Westminster
Senior Pakistani Sunni leader: absolutely no threat to holy sites in Saudi Arabia; they are the biggest threat to the holy sites
April 25, 2015 _ 11:11 AM
Chairman of Pakistan’s Sunni Ittehad Council Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza has said there is absolutely no threat to holy sites in Saudi Arabia and “Saudi government is the biggest threat to the holy sites in the country.”
Ahlul Bayt News Agency - Chairman of Pakistan’s Sunni Ittehad Council Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza has said there is absolutely no threat to holy sites in Saudi Arabia and “Saudi government is the biggest threat to the holy sites in the country.”
The religious leader referred to the Saudi government as the one that had demolished many scared sites and tombs in that country wondering how can they say that the holy sites in Saudi Arabia are under threat.
Hamid Raza made the remarks while commenting on recent claims made by Riyadh that it was threatened to be targeted by terrorist attacks.
Saudi Arabia has been playing a negative role in the Muslim world and has done a lot of damage to the Islamic Ummah (nations), said the chairman of the Ittehad Council of Pakistan.
He also commented on a resolution passed by the country’s parliamentarians urging Pakistan to take neutral position on Yemen and not get involved in the Saudi-led war against the people of Yemen.
The resolution was a positive development, said the leader adding, undemocratic countries of the Middle East should understand that in democratic societies, government is bound to follow the decision of the parliament.
Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza also said that a current visit by Saudi’s Sheikh Khalid al-Ghamdi, the Imam of Holey Kabba, to Pakistan had some hidden agenda and coming at a time when Saudi Arabia is involved in Yemen.
He added that we would have welcomed Imam Kabba’s visit had it come in his personal capacity. He said that Saudi Arabia is trying to engage the people of different school of thoughts in Pakistan with an objective to influence them.
The Sunni leader said that Saudi embassy was also playing a negative role in arranging these meetings. “This is a direct involvement in the internal affairs of Pakistan,” he said.
Libya militia 'launches air raids' against IS group militants
BYAFP | APRIL 24, 2015 , 10 : 51 PM GST
Heavy fighting has raged between IS and a Fajr Libya battalion in Sirte, located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital, since Wednesday evening, according to a spokesman for the militia. Photo - Files
Benghazi: A militia alliance that controls Libya's capital has carried out air strikes against positions of the IS militant group in the coastal city of Sirte, an official said.
"A Fajr Libya warplane launched several raids on Thursday evening against sites where there were members of the Libyan branch of the IS," an official in the town, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
The targets included an IS command base set up in a conference centre where the late leader Muammar Gaddafi once hosted international summits in what was his hometown, the official said.
Fajr Libya is a coalition of militias, including hardliners, which controls Tripoli, where it has installed a government and a parliament opposed to the internationally recognised legislature and cabinet.
Heavy fighting has raged between IS and a Fajr Libya battalion in Sirte, located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital, since Wednesday evening, according to a spokesman for the militia.
There have been sporadic clashes for about two months between IS and the battalion, tasked by the Tripoli parliament with restoring security in the coastal city.
The internationally recognised government fled to the far east of the country after Fajr Libya seized the capital in August.
The turmoil has allowed IS to gain a foothold in the oil-rich North African state, where the extremist group has executed dozens of Christians.