Bangladesh arrests top JMB militant blamed for Dhaka attack

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s elite security force said Thursday it had arrested a top regional head of the homegrown militant group blamed for an attack on a Dhaka cafe in which 20 hostages were murdered.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers stormed a flat in an apartment building in the industrial town of Tongi, just north of the capital Dhaka, and arrested four members of the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

“Among them was Mahmudul Hasan, the southern regional head of the JMB. He is a top militant trainer,” RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters.

Police recovered hand-made bombs and bomb-making materials from the house, indicating the militants “were planning to carry out an act of sabotage”, he said.

Bangladesh’s government has blamed JMB for the July 1 attack on an upscale cafe in Dhaka’s Gulshan neighbourhood in which 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, were shot and slaughtered.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the Gulshan attack, releasing photos of the carnage and of the five men who carried out the deadly assault.

Bangladeshi authorities rejected the claim, saying international militant networks have no presence in the country.

But national police chief Shahidul Hoque said recently that authorities were investigating whether the Gulshan attackers had any international connections.

RAB spokesman Khan said officers were probing whether Hasan and the three other detained JMB operatives, including a medical student, had played a role in the Gulshan attack.

“They will be questioned,” he said.

Hasan-trained militants were responsible for the murder of a police constable and deadly bomb attack at the nation’s most respected Shia shrine in Dhaka late last year, he added.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a deadly wave of attacks in the last three years.

The government and police say homegrown militants are responsible for the deaths of some 80 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities since 2013.

Both IS and a branch of Al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks.

Critics say Hasina’s administration is in denial about the nature of the threat posed by militancy and accuse her of trying to exploit the attacks to demonise her domestic political opponents.

Last month, authorities launched a crackdown on local militants, arresting more than 11,000 people, but critics allege the arrests were arbitrary or designed to silence opposition.

Source/Credit: Dawn

Migrant crisis: 22 bodies found on Mediterranean boat – MSF

The 21 women and one man were found “in a pool of fuel and water” at the bottom of the boat, off the coast of Libya.

They had been on the dinghy “for hours”, the aid group said.

More than 200 survivors who were on the dinghy have been transferred to a boat operated by MSF. There were 50 children among them.

Jens Pagotto of MSF told Reuters news agency: “It is still not entirely clear what happened, but they died a horrible death. It is tragic.

“It seems that water and fuel mixed together and the fumes from this might have been enough for them to lose consciousness.”

Most of the people on board were from western African countries.

The survivors were among more than 2,000 migrants rescued from the water in different operations on Wednesday and taken to Sicily. Vessels from the Spanish and Italian navies and other humanitarian organisations were involved.

Thousands of migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

MSF patrols the Mediterranean in three rescue vessels – the Dignity 1, the Bourbon Argos and the Aquarius. Another group, called SOS Mediterranee, is also involved with the Aquarius, which was the vessel used in Wednesday’s rescue.

Source/Credit: BBC

Saudi revives 15-year-old anti-Pokemon fatwa

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body has revived a 2001 religious edict prohibiting Pokemon in response to public calls for guidance on the newly launched smartphone version of the game.

The augmented-reality game Pokemon Go, which is based on a 1996 Nintendo game, has created a global frenzy as players roam the real world looking for cartoon monsters.

Despite Pokemon Go not yet being officially available in ulta-conservative Saudi Arabia, many have downloaded it illegally and have started hunting for virtual “pocket monsters”.

The kingdom’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta said in its latest announcement on its website that it has republished a 2001 edict on the game after “receiving many questions” on it from the public.

The 15-year-old fatwa said the game was too much like gambling and that the concept of its characters appeared to be based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is rejected by Islam.

It also said most cards on the game carried symbols of “deviant” religions and organisations, such as “international Zionism” and Israel, Christian crosses, Freemasonry, and symbols from Japan’s native Shinto religion.

The Pokemon game was un-Islamic as it contains polytheism, said the edict, without specifically referring to the popular smartphone app.

Pokemon Go uses smartphone satellite location, graphics and camera capabilities to overlay cartoon monsters on real-world settings, challenging players to capture and train the creatures for battles. It has already been blamed for a wave of crimes, traffic violations and complaints in cities around the globe.



Protests erupt in Modi’s state over attack on low-caste men

NEW DELHI: Protesters from India’s low-caste community blocked roads and attacked government buses in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state on Wednesday in a third day of demonstrations over the flogging of four men accused of skinning a cow.

The four members of the Dalit community were last week tied to a car in Gujarat state, stripped and flogged with sticks by self-styled hardline Hindu cow protectors who then published a video of the attack as a “warning” to others.

The beatings sparked the most serious protests by Dalits in years in Gujarat, with seven youths trying to kill themselves in protest by taking pesticide in different parts of the state, an act that further inflamed tempers.

A police officer was killed on Tuesday during clashes in Una, 340 km from Gujarat’s main city, Ahmedabad, where the tannery workers were attacked.

Cows are revered in Hinduism and their slaughter is banned in most Indian states including Gujarat, where Modi ruled as chief minister for a decade and spearheaded a 2011 ban.

Dalits in the state, however, said they earn their livelihood from skinning cows that die naturally, buffalos and other animals, and vowed to fight anyone trying to stop them from doing so.

“We are the poorest but we are not cowards,” said Mayur Dabhia, a leader of the Dalit campaign group in Ahmedabad.

Police are investigating whether the flogged men killed the cow or whether it was already dead.

Dalits are at the bottom of India’s ages-old social hierarchy, making them vulnerable to attacks perpetrated by self-styled cow-protecting vigilantes.

The vigilantes chase trucks transporting cattle and raid slaughter houses.

Several people accused of eating beef have also been attacked, including a Muslim man who was last year beaten to death by a mob in a town near New Delhi.

Opposition lawmakers disrupted parliament on Wednesday to protest against the floggings in Gujarat and demanded Modi apologise to the victims.

“The recent shocking incident in Gujarat where four Dalit youths were savagely beaten and humiliated publicly is just one example of the social terror this government condones,” Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party told supporters, Indian media reported.

Critics say Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu nationalist agenda empowers hardline activists to believe they can take matters into their hands and target minority groups like Dalits and Muslims involved in the cattle trade.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh condemned the attack in Gujarat and said Modi was committed to the protection of low-caste people.

Source/Credit: Dawn

Non-bailable arrest warrants issued for Ayaan in customs inspector murder case

RAWALPINDI: A non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued for model Ayaan Ali in the murder case of customs inspector Ejaz Mehmood.

A local court ordered police to arrest the accused immediately. Warrants have also been issued for others accused in the case, including customs superintendent Zargham and Dr Haroon. All three have been ordered to appear before the court within 10 days by Magistrate Gulfam Latif Butt.

Mehmood was shot dead by unknown assailants at his home in June last year. His widow claimed in a petition that he was killed at the behest of the model because he was the custodian of the case property and under continuous threat and pressure to manoeuvre and manipulate the evidence to favour Ayaan. But Mehmood refused to succumb to the pressure.

Source/Credit: Dawn

Rixon expects no repeat of Lord’s press-up celebrations

MANCHESTER: Pakistan are set to tone down captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s press-up celebrations even if they win the second Test at Old Trafford.

The tourists’ 42-year-old skipper marked his first-innings hundred, in what was his maiden Test at Lord’s last week, by saluting his team-mates and then performing 10 press-ups.

It was a gesture repeated by the whole team in front of the Lord’s Pavilion after they wrapped up a 75-run win, with more than a day to spare, to go 1-0 up in the four-match series.

The press-up routine has become the squad’s way of thanking army staff who put them through a pre-tour boot camp.

Fielding coach Steve Rixon said the military training had been beneficial.

But speaking to reporters at Old Trafford on Wednesday two days out from the start of the game, he suggested a repeat celebration was unlikely.

“It probably won’t be seen again,” he said. “It was something that was initiated through the captain — he made a little pledge to himself. We didn’t know it was coming. It was spontaneous.”

The former Australia wicket-keeper added: “It’s something you see in all sports … a one-off thing. It’s done and dusted, and we move on.”

Rixon said what mattered more than how Misbah chose to mark a century was the unity he had forged within the squad.

“The spirit is very high, and belief is high,” Rixon explained. “The win [at Lord’s] was reward for a lot of hard work — the boot camp back in Pakistan, and a lot of hard work [two weeks’ additional training] in Hampshire.

Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah was the key man at Lord’s with a 10-wicket match haul.

The Old Trafford pitch usually has more pace and bounce than the one at Lord’s and Rixon said that would suit all of the Pakistan attack.

“I think our seamers will do very well here, with the extra bounce,” he said. “Generally speaking, Yasir will have a major effect in any game of cricket. It doesn’t have to turn a lot for him to have an impact.

“When you have magnificent control you are in the game, and there are very few who have had that.

“Shane Warne is one, and Yasir is rightfully sitting at the top of the tree for that reason.”

England have recalled all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson after concerns he was not fully fit following a shoulder injury, even though there were reports that he thought himself ready to play in the first Test.

Rixon acknowledged England were in an awkward situation by saying: “It’s a fine line — a very fine line.”

Not that Pakistan were too upset by Anderson’s absence or that of all-rounder Ben Stokes, also now recalled to the squad after a knee injury.

“We are very happy with what’s been happening so far,” said Rixon. “Jimmy Anderson is a great bowler and Stokes a good all-rounder. They are two very fine cricketers [and] … will add to the England attack and overall composition of the side.

“We are expecting as hard a game as we’ll get in the series right here.”

Source/Credit: Dawn