SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Hundreds of people protested in Tunis on Saturday against the Islamist-dominated regime, in a rally that was originally planned in support of women’s rights, witnesses said.
“The people demand the fall of the regime!” protesters shouted as they carried placards criticizing the composition of a new cabinet announced on Friday in the latest attempt to pull Tunisia out of its worst political crisis since the revolution two years ago.
“The cabinet reshuffle was a piece of theatre,” read one placard.
The new cabinet unveiled by premier-designate Ali Larayedh from the powerful Islamist party Ennahda is to replace the team of fellow Islamist Hamadi Jebali who stepped down as prime minister last month after his own efforts to form a new cabinet failed.
Larayedh, the outgoing interior minister, was tapped to form the new government in the wake of Jebali’s failure to do so, following the February 6 assassination of leftist leader Chokri Belaid that plunged Tunisia into turmoil.
The proposed line-up has to be approved by the national constituent assembly on Tuesday.
Larayedh said his new cabinet, in which key portfolios were entrusted to little known independent candidates, in a clear concession by the Islamists, would step down at the end of the year after elections are held.
The remaining portfolios were given to Ennahda and its two secular partners from the outgoing coalition, which together control 109 out of 217 seats in the national assembly, enough to ensure a vote of confidence.
But this support is far from enough to steer Tunisia out of its worst crisis since Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime fell in January 2011, and to ensure support for the much-delayed new constitution-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Three suspected Jihadists who were arrested in the liberation of Timbuktu have said they were tortured by Malian soldiers who used a method similar to waterboarding. There are also reports of child soldiers being used by the Malian army.
The three suspected militants were being held in an earthen cell in the remains of a military camp in Timbuktu, according to journalists from AP who spoke to the men.
Timbuktu was freed last weekend by Malian and French soldiers after 10 months under the rule of radical Islamists, who had imposed Sharia law in the town.
The men, tied together in the cell with one handcuff and a turban, all admitted to the journalists to having been members of Ansar Dine, which has links to Al-Qaeda.
“To force me to talk they poured 40 liters of water in my mouth and over my nostrils, which made it so that I could not breathe anymore. For a moment I thought I was actually going to die,” said one of the men who said he was from the central Malian town of Niono.
The other two soldiers spoke of similar treatment, although their account could not be independently verified.
A Malian army colonel, Mamary Camara, told reporters that Malian forces arrested the men in the town of Lere and that one of them was from Libya and had been wearing a foreign military uniform and said he had a wristwatch with a memory card that he allegedly used to communicate with other jihadists.
The Islamist who was allegedly from Libya gave AP contradictory information about his origin. First he said he was born in Mali but was of Libyan dissent and then said he was from Tripoli but had lived in Mali for years. He also initially denied being part of Ansar Dine, but then admitted to belonging to the movement. He was visibly frightened; cowering in his cell, according to AP.
There are also reports emerging from Mali of child soldiers being used by the army. A freelance journalist in Mali, Gonzalo Wancha, told RT that in the town of Diabli many of the military forces were heavily armed child soldiers.
“My brother was attacked by a group of militants. There were children among them. One of the children fired at him. My brother fell and was riddled with bullets,” Mohamed Kandanku, a local, told Wancha.
The exact number of underage youths or their exact age could not be verified.
Both allegations come as both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International issued reports Friday of misconduct against the Islamists by the Malian army.
Wancha said that civilians had been killed by the Malian army in Sevare, in the center of the country, and had dumped their bodies in a well.
Human Rights Watch also reported that witnesses had seen Malian soldiers interrogate passengers at a bus station in Sevare, who they suspected of having links with Islamic extremist groups.
“Before the soldiers marched them off, many of the detained men frantically tried to find someone in the crowd who could vouch for them and verify their identity. They were driven or marched to a nearby field, where they were shot and their bodies dumped into one of four wells,” the HRW report said.
The Friday reports also stated that human rights abuses have been committed by the Islamists, who reportedly executed at least seven Malian soldiers, five of whom were wounded during the battle for the town of Konna.
France has said that it wants to hand over responsibility for the mission to the Malian army and the armies of other West African countries.
The Malian government has promised to investigate allegations of torture and other human rights abuses by its military.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA(Shia International News Association)-- Algerian troops were in a standoff on Wednesday night with Islamist militants who took at least 20 western contractors hostage in a raid on a desert gas field in which two people were killed, one of them British.
Downing Street said "several British nationals" had been caught up in the attack, which appeared to be in retaliation for France's military intervention in neighbouring Mali.
The Algerian interior minister, Daho Ould Kablia, said that Algerian troops had surrounded a wing of the living quarters at the Ain Amenas gas field on the Algerian border with Libya, where the jihadists were holding the hostages. "We reject all negotiations with the group, which is holding some 20 hostages from several nationalities," Kablia declared on national TV.
Algerian authorities said a Briton and an Algerian had died in the initial attack at dawn and that six people had been wounded – two Britons, a Norwegian and three Algerian security guards.
Foreign secretary William Hague said: "A number of people are held hostage. This does include a number of British nationals. This is therefore an extremely dangerous situation. We are in close touch with the Algerian government, the Algerian military have deployed to the area, and the prime minister has spoken to the prime minister of Algeria."
One militant spokesman claimed that as many as 41 foreigners were being held, but that could not be confirmed. The Algerian Press Service (APS) said Algerian workers at the site were being gradually released in small groups. But a French catering company, CIS, told the BBC that 150 of its Algerian employees were still being held. A spokesman said they were "allowed to move around … unlike the foreign hostages, who are trapped in a corner and cannot move".
Kablia said there were "about 20 terrorists" involved, adding that they had not come from a neighbouring country, implying they were Algerian, and that "they are acting under the orders of" Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian jihadist with close ties to al-Qaida.
Norway's prime minister Jens Stoltenberg said 13 Norwegians were among the hostages . The country's foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, said: "We've asked the Algerian authorities to put the life and health of the hostages above all."
Tthe US confirmed that some Americans had been seized; Japanese news agencies, citing unnamed government officials, said there were three Japanese hostages; and Ireland said a 36-year-old Irishman was part of the group. US defence secretary Leon Panetta said Washington "will take all necessary and proper steps" to deal with the attack.
The gas field is operated by BP, in partnership with Norwegian oil company Statoil and Algerian state oil firm Sonatrach, with a Japanese firm, JGC Corp, providing services. BP confirmed that the site had been "attacked and occupied by a group of unidentified armed people".
As night fell, it appeared that the militants and their hostages were still in the gas field complex, ringed by Algerian forces. There were unconfirmed reports that the jihadists had rigged the site with mines or other explosives.
There were claims of responsibility from groups calling themselves the Masked Brigade and Signers in Blood, both names used by followers of Belmokhtar.
They said the attack was a reprisal for the French intervention against a jihadist offensive in Mali, which Algeria has supported by opening its air space to French warplanes.
"It's the United Nations that gave the green light to this intervention and all western countries are now going to pay a price. We are now globalising our conflict," Oumar Ould Hamaha, a close associate of Belmokhtar, told Associated Press by phone.
The US and other European countries have supported the French intervention, Operation Serval, by sending transport planes, while Washington has offered help with transport, intelligence and surveillance.
However, the target of the attack, Ain Amenas, is about 700 miles from the Algerian border with Mali.
British officials speculated that the attack could have been planned long before the French action began last week. One report said the hostage-takers were demanding the release of 100 fellow militants in Algerian jails.
The Algerian interior ministry said the assault began at 5am when heavily armed jihadists arrived at the living quarters on the complex in three vehicles.
"The attack began on a bus which was leaving the base, taking foreigners to the airport in Amenas," according to a statement quoted by the APS. "After this failed, the terrorist group headed towards the camp, taking over part of it and taking hostage an unknown number of workers with foreign nationalities."
The bus attack was repelled by its police escort, the Algerian government said, but the British victim appears to have been killed in that exchange and six others wounded.
The bus managed to escape and the injured were being treated on Wednesday night in the hospital at Ain Amenas. There was an unconfirmed report that a French national had also been killed.
Belmokhtar, a veteran of Algeria's civil conflict, was a deputy commander of al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb (Aqim), until last month when he broke away and set up his own group, to which he has referred as the Masked Brigade and Signers in Blood, dedicated to resisting western efforts to suppress the jihadist uprising that has taken control of northern Mali and spilled into the surrounding region.
Hague said a diplomatic rapid deployment team had been sent to Algiers to reinforce the British embassy and consular staff in Algeria. He added that the government's emergency response committee, Cobra, would continue to meet.
Source : Agencies
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Islamist activists raided the last working bar in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on Monday, smashing bottles and chasing away customers, witnesses said.
Around 50 activists burst into the bar in the Hotel Horchani in the center of town, customers and staff told AFP.
Bearded men then raided the reception and the upstairs rooms of the hotel, the last in Sidi Bouzid to serve alcohol, some of them shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) and “Al-Saharab haram” (drinking is a sin).
A young man who tried to film the raid was beaten by members of the group and taken to an unknown location, as angry hotel guests gathered at the scene.
The sale and consumption of alcohol is regulated but legal in Tunisia, traditionally a popular destination for tourists, especially from France.
Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last year, is a stronghold of the Salafist movement, which has grown increasingly assertive in recent months.
The North African country has witnessed numerous violent incidents linked to the hardliners, prompting opposition activists to accuse the Islamist-led coalition government of not doing enough to rein them in.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Arabiya
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Egypt's incoming cabinet will have few Islamists and some holdovers from the outgoing military-backed team in key positions, according to a partial list.
The list was released by state media on Wednesday, a day before the first government under the country's new Islamist president is sworn in.
The choices by President Mohammed Morsi's prime minister, Hesham Kandil, are seen as a test of the intentions of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt's official news media listed more than 20 ministers in the new cabinet, so far including only two members from the Brotherhood - an apparent attempt to calm concerns over the group's intention to dominate the government.
The Brotherhood appointees will hold the higher education and the housing ministries.
Highlighting the difficulties of forming a government with broad appeal, Mr Kandil took more than a week to nominate his ministers. The government must also work through a power struggle between the newly elected president and the military council, which ruled Egypt during 17 months of transition.
The military council, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, took over power following long-time President Hosni Mubarak's ousting.
Just before Mr Morsi was declared winner, the military council issued a constitutional amendment which undercut much of the president's authority, gave the military the right to approve the budget and retain legislative powers. The first elected parliament had been dissolved through a court order days before.
Key ministers of information, justice and culture are yet to be named, highlighting the tough negotiations over the posts. The defence minister is expected to be named by the military.
Mr Kandil and Mr Morsi's first government face daunting challenges, the first of which is presenting a coalition government that moves to heal deep divisions in the country following the election in June of the Islamist Mr Morsi as Egypt's first civilian president.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Dubai’s police chief has warned of an “international plot” to overthrow the governments of Gulf Arab countries. Dahi Khalfan says the region needs to be prepared to counter any threat from Islamist dissidents.
"There's an international plot against Gulf States in particular, and Arab countries in general…This is preplanned to take over our fortunes,” Khalfan told Reuters.
"The bigger our sovereign wealth funds and the more money we put in the banks of Western countries, the bigger the plot to take over our countries,” he said.
The comments come just one day after eight people were arrested in the United Arab Emirates for allegedly “opposing the country’s constitution” and plotting “crimes against state security.”
At least 20 dissidents, most of them Islamists, have been detained in the UAE since April, according to activists.
Human rights activists say those detained are believed to be linked to al-Islah, an outlawed Islamist group in the UAE.
Suspected members were targeted amid fears that they may be allies of the Muslim Brotherhood – a group which Abu Dhabi has accused of trying to destabilize the region.
"I had no idea that there is this large number of Muslim Brotherhood in the Gulf States. We have to be alert and on guard because the wider these groups become, the higher probability there is for trouble," said Khalfan.
"We are aware that there are groups plotting to overthrow Gulf governments in the long term," he said.
Islah’s members have said that although the group shares common goals with the Brotherhood, they are not specifically linked to the party.
Khalfan, who is known as one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, also accused Shia power Iran and its ally Syria of interfering in the Gulf States – most of which are ruled by Sunni Muslim monarchies.
Authorities in the United Arab Emirates have been quick to tackle domestic opposition since pro-democracy protests erupted in the region as part of the Arab Spring movement.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Allegations by a Republican representative that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the administration of President Barack Obama are inviting a storm of rebukes as the latest sign of growing Islamophobia in the United States, The Washington Post reported Thursday, July 19.
Michele Bachmann’s accusations "reflect a general pattern of Islamophobia that touches too many areas of our society," Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said.
"Allegations such as these by members of Congress add legitimacy to this distressing trend."
Republican representative Bachmann has claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the Obama administration.
She cited Huma Abedin, an American Muslim who is a close aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as an example of the Brotherhood infiltration into the US government.
Bachmann argued that Abedin is part of a conspiracy by the Muslim Brotherhood to influence US foreign policy to advance Islamist causes.
She joined four other fellow Republicans in sending letters to five government agencies about deep Islamist penetration in the US government.
"The intention of the letters was to outline the serious national security concerns I had and ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical group’s access to top Obama administration officials,” Bachmann said in a statement.
She cited a recent visit by an Egyptian lawmaker from Al-Gamaa Islamiya, which Washington classifies as a "terrorist group", to the United States and his talks with US officials as a sign of the Islamist infiltration into the government.
"This is just the latest example of the dangerous national security decisions made by the Obama administration,” Bachmann said.
"I will not be silent as this administration appeases our enemies instead of telling the truth about the threats our country faces."
Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most powerful political force in Egypt.
The group has emerged as the most powerful group after last year's revolution that ousted autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.
Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected Egypt's president last month in the country's first free democratic election.
American lawmakers criticized the Republican representative for fuelling anti-Muslim sentiments without substantial evidence.
"Your response simply rehashes claims that have existed for years on anti-Muslim websites and contains no reliable information that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government," Democratic Representative Keith Ellison wrote in a letter to Bachmann.
Ellison, the first Muslim Congressman, stressed that the Republican representative was using the accusations for "political gains".
Christina Warner, director of the interfaith organization Shoulder-to-Shoulder, was also critical.
The Bachmann letters "asking for investigations of American Muslims are cause for concern and give an undeserved and harmful platform to fringe accusations."
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Anti-Muslim sentiments sharply grew in the United States over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California said that Islamophobia is on the rise in the US.
A US survey has also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
Republican Senator John McCain also dismissed accusations against Clinton's Muslim aide and allegations of Islamist infiltration into the US government.
"These sinister accusations rest solely on a few unspecified and unsubstantiated associations of members of Huma’s family, none of which have been shown to harm or threaten the United States in any way,” McCain said.
"These attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now.
McCain said that Huma is a success story of Muslim immigrants in the United States.
“Put simply, Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully,” he said.
“I am proud to know Huma and to call her my friend.”— www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) - A spokesman for Jordan’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood says his group will boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections in protest over recent changes in the kingdom’s election legislation.
A boycott would be a blow to King Abdullah, who has made reforms the centrepiece of his campaign to stave off Arab Spring-like protests in Jordan.
Brotherhood spokesman Jamil Abu-Bakr said today that the movement — Jordan’s largest opposition group — may reverse its decision if the government “makes serious and real efforts toward reforms.”
The elections are expected at the end of the year.
The main dispute is over a new election law, which allows each voter two separate ballots — one for representatives from local districts in this traditionally tribal society, the other for one of 27 candidates on a national list.
SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — Calls from a Bahraini Sunni cleric to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids have been revealed as a hoax. The demands were made from a Twitter account which claimed to be owned by Bahrain’s President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud.
In the post, a person masquerading as al-Mahmoud labeled the pyramids “idolatrous” and asked Egypt’s new president to destroy them, as Egypt's Daily News reports.
Several conservative websites used the news to raise alarm over the rise of Egypt’s Islamist government.
According to rumors, al-Mahmoud encouraged Cairo to “accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”
An Islamization process was begun under his rule – which saw many Egyptian monuments destroyed as “relics of infidelity.”
However, demolishing the pyramids was prohibited during the 7th century – so the structures remained untouched.
The parody tweet was published on June 25 – the same day Muhammed Morsi was announced president of Egypt. However, it wasn’t picked up by media until today.
The fake tweet that sparked frenzy in the Arab Media coincided with a genuine attack on cultural heritage objects by radicals.
On Tuesday, Islamist fighters destroyed two tombs at the famous Djingareyber mosque in the Malian city of Timbuktu. Witnesses say militants shot into the air to warn people away while they smashed the shrines. — www.shafaqna.com/english/