Muslim

A member of the 324 Squadron during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Coogee Beach in Sydney
A member of the 324 Squadron during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia, April 25, 2019. AAP Image/Steven Saphore/via REUTERS

April 25, 2019

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Tens of thousands gathered in Australia and New Zealand at Anzac Day memorials on Thursday amid heightened security following the shooting massacre at Christchurch mosques and deadly suicide bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan government minister says the bombings on Easter Sunday were retaliation for the Christchurch massacre on March 15, in which a lone gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques. New Zealand says it has no evidence of a link.

Turkish authorities arrested a suspected member of the Islamic State group they believe was planning to attack an Anzac Day commemoration at Gallipoli attended by hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders, Turkish police said on Wednesday.

Anzac Day commemorates the bloody battle on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during World War One. On April 25, 1915, thousands of troops from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were among a larger Allied force that landed on the narrow beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula, an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

While the Gallipoli campaign against the Turks failed, the landing date of April 25 has become a major day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for their troops killed in all military conflicts.

Addressing thousands gathered for a dawn service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that, in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, Anzac Day 2019 should be an even greater uniting force.

“Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity that there is more that unites us than divides us,” Ardern said.

“Our sense of independence is as strong as our sense of responsibility to each other and not just as nation states but as human beings. That is part of the Anzac legacy,” she said.

Heavily armed police surrounded the function area and snipers were positioned on rooftops during the ceremony.

Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, paid tribute at the Auckland War Memorial alongside Ardern. He will travel to Christchurch later on Thursday to honor the 50 victims of the shooting.

Heightened security saw about 1,000 police deployed across New Zealand at hundreds of locations and security concerns meant Anzac Day events in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and elsewhere were scaled back.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed a dawn service in Townsville, Queensland, where he shared memories of his grandfather, who served in World War Two.

“Our heroes don’t just belong to the past, they live with us today,” Morrison said.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon in WELLINGTON and Will Ziebell in MELBOURNE; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Security forces stand guard at St. Antony shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo
Security forces stand guard at St. Antony shrine, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

April 25, 2019

By Alasdair Pal and Sunil Kataria

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – As mourners buried the remains of Christian worshippers killed by the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, hundreds of Muslim refugees fled Negombo on the country’s west coast where communal tensions have flared in recent days.

At least 359 people perished in the coordinated series of blasts targeting churches and hotels. Church leaders believe the final toll from the attack on St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo could be close to 200, almost certainly making Negombo the deadliest of the six near-simultaneous attacks.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Pakistani Muslims fled the multi-ethnic port an hour north of the capital, Colombo. Crammed into buses organized by community leaders and police, they left fearing for their safety after threats of revenge from locals.

“Because of the bomb blasts and explosions that have taken place here, the local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” Adnan Ali, a Pakistani Muslim, told Reuters as he prepared to board a bus. “Right now we don’t know where we will go.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, yet despite Islamic State being a Sunni jihadist group, many of the Muslims fleeing Negombo belong to the Ahmadi community, who had been hounded out of Pakistan years ago after their sect was declared non-Muslim.

The fallout from Sunday’s attacks appears set to render them homeless once more.

Farah Jameel, a Pakistani Ahmadi, said she had been thrown out of her house by her landlord.

“She said ‘get out of here and go wherever you want to go, but don’t live here’,” she told Reuters, gathered with many others at the Ahmadiyya Mosque, waiting for buses to take them to a safe location.

“I HAVE NOTHING NOW”

Sri Lanka’s government is in disarray over the failure to prevent the attacks, despite repeated warnings from intelligence sources.

Police have detained an unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of anti-Muslim riots in 2014, in the wake of the attacks, and raids were carried out in neighborhoods around St Sebastian’s Church.

Police played down the threats to the refugees, but said they have been inundated with calls from locals casting suspicion on Pakistanis in Negombo.

“We have to search houses if people suspect,” said Herath BSS Sisila Kumara, the officer in charge at Katara police station, where 35 of the Pakistanis that gathered at the mosque were taken into police custody for their own protection, before being sent to an undisclosed location.

“All the Pakistanis have been sent to safe houses,” he said. “Only they will decide when they come back.”

Two kilometers away, makeshift wooden crosses marked the new graves at the sandy cemetery of St Sebastian’s Church, as the latest funerals on Wednesday took the number buried there to 40.

Channa Repunjaya, 49, was at home when he heard about the blast at St Sebastian’s. His wife, Chandralata Dassanaike and nine-year-old daughter Meeranhi both died.

“I felt like committing suicide when I heard that they had died,” he told Reuters by the open graves. “I have nothing now.”

Meeranhi’s grandmother, with her head still bandaged after being wounded in the attack, was held by a relative as the first handfuls of earth were scattered upon her child-sized coffin.

Most of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Buddhist, but the Indian Ocean island’s population includes Muslim, Hindu and Christian minorities. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

There were signs of some religious communities pulling together following Sunday’s outrage.

Saffron- and scarlet-robed Buddhist monks from a nearby monastery handed out bottled water to mourners who gathered under a baking afternoon sun.

But the town, which has a long history of sheltering refugees – including those made homeless by a devastating tsunami in 2004 – may struggle to recover from Sunday’s violence, said Father Jude Thomas, one of dozens of Catholic priests who attended Wednesday’s burials.

“Muslims and Catholics lived side by side,” he said. “It was always a peaceful area, but now things have come to the surface we cannot control.”

(Editing by John Chalmers & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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People participate in a mass funeral in Negombo
People participate in a mass funeral in Negombo, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Sri Lanka April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

April 24, 2019

By Sanjeev Miglani

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lankan police said on Wednesday they had detained 18 more people for questioning over the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels, claimed by the Islamic State group, as the death toll climbed again to 359.

The extremist Islamic State group made its claim after Sri Lankan officials said the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka were carried out in retaliation for attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people in March.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the death toll had risen to 359 from 321 overnight, with about 500 people wounded, but did not give a breakdown of casualties from the three churches and four hotels hit by the bombers.

Islamic State said through its AMAQ news agency the assaults in Sri Lanka were carried out by seven attackers but gave no evidence to support its claim of responsibility. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.

Junior minister for defense Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament on Tuesday two Sri Lankan Islamist groups – the National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – were responsible for the blasts, which went off during Easter services and as hotels served breakfast.

Police continued searching homes across the Indian Ocean island nation overnight, leading to the detention of 18 more people. That brings the number of people taken in for questioning to close to 60, including one Syrian.

The overnight raids included areas near the Gothic-style St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of the capital, where scores were killed on Sunday, a police spokesman said. An unspecified number of people were detained in western Sri Lanka, the scene of Muslim riots in 2014.

“Search operations are going on everywhere, there is tight checking of Muslim areas,” a security source said.

The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that has existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

The attacks have already foreshadowed a shake-up of Sri Lankan security forces, with President Maithripala Sirisena saying on Tuesday night he planned to change some of his defense chiefs after criticism that intelligence warnings of an Easter attack were ignored.

Three sources told Reuters that Sri Lankan intelligence officials had been warned by India hours before the blasts that attacks by Islamists were imminent. It was not clear what action, if any, was taken.

Most of those killed and wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were also killed. That included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

The U.N. Children’s Fund said 45 children were among the dead.

Junior defense minister Wijewardene said investigators believed revenge for the March 15 mosque attacks in the New Zealand city of Christchurch was the motive but did not elaborate. The attacks during Friday prayers in Christchurch were carried out by a lone gunman.

The Sri Lankan government has imposed emergency law and an overnight curfew. It said it has also blocked online messaging services to stop the spread of inflammatory rumors that it feared could incite communal clashes.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting with investigations.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Paul Tait)

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Mohammad Rafiq poses with his parents inside their house in Ahmedabad
Mohammad Rafiq, 18, poses with his parents inside their house in Ahmedabad, India, April 17, 2019. Picture taken April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

April 23, 2019

By Rupam Jain

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) – On the night of February 28, 2002, two toddlers living in adjacent alleys were dragged out of a slum district in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat that had been set ablaze by a mob in one of India’s worst ever Hindu-Muslim riots.

The attack in the Naroda Patiya area of the state’s biggest city was among scores of clashes in which more than 800 Muslims and 255 Hindus were killed in the month-long violence in the home state of Narendra Modi. He had just become its chief minister and would rule there until becoming India’s prime minister in 2014.

Rights groups say about 2,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, and including scores of children.

The toddlers who survived, a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl, were both one-year-olds at the time of the riots. Now, 17 years later, they are among an estimated 15 million first-time voters in a general election in which Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are seeking a second term on a platform that, critics say, marginalises Muslims in favor of the nation’s majority Hindus.

Mohammad Rafiq and Pooja Jadhav, now both 18, met for the first time during the Reuters interview. Jadhav hesitantly acknowledged Rafiq’s presence but said they were too shy to talk.

“I have many Muslim female friends but I don’t talk to Muslim boys,” she said in the presence of her mother.

But despite the silence between them, they have a lot in common.

Both are largely uneducated and work 10 hour-days in menial jobs to support their families, who fled with them from one-room homes on that fateful day. Both want to secure permanent employment but do not have the educational qualifications, and say they want to vote for a party that will resolve this problem.

They also want get married within their communities, move to better homes and forget the 2002 riots.

But both grew up in a world of communal anger and are wary of people from the other religion. That is also reflected in their politics.         

“Even before I understood the word politics or elections, I was told that the BJP is an anti-Muslim political party,” said Rafiq who works at a factory printing election flags with symbols of the BJP and the main opposition party, Congress.

“RAGE” TOWARDS BJP

Rafiq’s family-run furniture shop and house were looted by Hindu men during the riots. His father was hit in the leg by a police bullet as he was fleeing the slum and his mother suffered head injuries when terrified people stampeded.

The family lived in a relief camp and later moved into a house situated next to Ahmedabad’s biggest garbage collection site.

“My rage towards the BJP is part of my life story. I  can forgive but I cannot forget,” said Rafiq as he stood next to a huge black mound of garbage.

“If Modi ever cared for Muslims he could come to see how we have learned to live with the stench from the landfill. His disrespect for Muslims defines my political choice,” said Rafiq, who said he will be voting for the Congress party at the polls in Gujarat on Tuesday. The votes from a 39-day staggered election will be counted on May 23.

Back in 2002, at least 97 people, mostly Muslims, living in Naroda Patiya were killed and 950 houses and shops were set on fire in less than 10 hours.

Modi, the state’s chief minister at the time, has faced allegations of allowing, or even encouraging, the Hindu attacks on Muslims, but he has vehemently denied the charges and a court-appointed investigation panel found no evidence to prosecute him.

The attacks were in retaliation for the death of at least 59 Hindus after a train carriage carrying hundreds of  pilgrims caught fire following a scuffle between Hindus and Muslims at a railway station in Gujarat.

Demarcation along religious lines has become pronounced in Ahmedabad since the riots. Hindus refused to sell houses to Muslims, forcing them to set up ghettos on the edges of the prosperous city.

Rafiq’s father sold the house in Naroda Patiya and used the money to start a metal trade business, and buy clothes and items for their new home, which was given to them by a Muslim charity organization.

“We had a choice to go back and live in the house where my neighbors were killed or live near this garbage site. My father chose the garbage site,” said Rafiq.

Rafiq traveled with Reuters to his old home in Naroda Patiya for the first time in two years. He met his relatives and stood near the house now owned by Muslims not known to him.

“The air is better here. There is no stench. I would have been happier if we lived here,” said Rafiq.

COMFORTED BY MODI

By contrast, Jadhav’s family returned to their partially damaged house in Naroda Patiya after the riots to live among Muslim neighbors.

“We had no choice. Muslim victims left this area and new Muslims came to live here. We are stuck,” she said.

Over a dozen members of 37 Hindu families in Naroda Patiya interviewed by Reuters said they want to live in a Hindu neighborhood but they lack the financial resources to move.  

When Modi became prime minister in 2014, Jadhav said her mother, a widow, celebrated his victory.

“Seeing her happy made me happy too. I have nothing against Muslims, but I like Modi,” said Jadhav, who works as a domestic helper.

Jadhav says she is comforted by BJP rule, especially living among Muslims. But she declined to say who she will vote for.

“We live in a country ruled by the BJP and Muslims know that they cannot behave badly with us. No one wants riots again,” said Jadhav. She says she enjoys listening to Modi’s speeches emphasizing his pro-Hindu brand of nationalism.

“I have heard about the riots and since then I know Muslims and Hindus should not engage after a point. There has to be a boundary forever,” she said.

The teenagers are both products of angry times.

“Children read comic books, fairy tales but we have grown up listening about Hindu, Muslim riots. My vote will be my reaction to our painful past,” said Rafiq as he scanned his mobile phone to play and sing the latest Bollywood hip hop song.

“Our time will also come,” he sang in the Hindi language and smiled at Jadhav. She hesitantly smiled back as she stood at door of her home.

(Reporting by Rupam Jain; Editing by Martin Howell and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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FILE PHOTO: Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive at Insein court in Yangon
FILE PHOTO: Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive at Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug. 27, 2018. REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Shoon Naing and Simon Lewis

NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – Myanmar’s top court on Tuesday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act, in a landmark case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy.

“They were sentenced for seven years and this decision stands, and the appeal is rejected,” Supreme Court Justice Soe Naing told the court in the capital, Naypyitaw, without elaborating.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.

Lawyers for the reporters had appealed to the Supreme Court citing lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police. A policeman told a lower court last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters.

A district court judge in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, found the two journalists guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison. The Yangon High Court rejected an earlier appeal in January.

“Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not commit any crime, nor was there any proof that they did,” Reuters Chief Counsel Gail Gove said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Instead, they were victims of a police set-up to silence their truthful reporting. We will continue to do all we can to free them as soon as possible.”

A government spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.

The reporters’ imprisonment has sparked an outcry from press freedom advocates, Western diplomats, and world leaders, adding to pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who took power in 2016 amid a transition to democracy from military rule.

The courtroom on Tuesday was crowded with diplomats and observers. After the verdict was announced, the head of the UN in Myanmar, Knut Ostby, said he was disappointed.

“The United Nations will continue to call for full respect of freedom of the press and human rights,” he said in a statement. “Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo should be allowed to return to their families and continue their work as journalists.”

The investigation that the journalists were working on, which uncovered security forces’ involvement in killings, arson and looting, was completed by colleagues and published in 2018. Last week it was awarded the Pulitzer prize for international reporting.

U.N. investigators have called for high-ranking military officials to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and genocide over a 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya in response to militant attacks in the western part of the country.

Both Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are being held at Yangon’s Insein prison and were not present to hear the Supreme Court verdict.

Their wives, who had traveled from Yangon to hear the verdict on Tuesday, emerged from the courtroom quietly wiping away tears.

Panei Mon, Wa Lone’s wife, who gave birth to their first child last year, said she had been “hoping for the best”.

“Our husbands are good people,” she said. “We want them to be released as soon as possible.”

(Reporting by Shoon Naing and Simon Lewis; Editing by Neil Fullick)

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FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference on a visit to Baghdad
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih (not pictured) in Baghdad, Iraq, March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani/File Photo

April 22, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran and Pakistan will form a joint quick reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday during a televised press conference with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan arrived in Iran on Sunday to discuss security and regional issues, Iranian state TV reported, a day after Islamabad urged Tehran to act against militants behind killings in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been strained in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

“We agreed to increase the security cooperation of the two countries, our border forces, our intelligence forces,” Rouhani said during the conference, which was broadcast live on state TV. “And also to form a joint quick reaction force on the border of the two countries for fighting terrorism.”

Khan said that militant activity at the border could be a source of tension.

“The most important reason why I’m here, Mr. President, is because I felt that the issue of terrorism was going to … increase differences between our countries,” Khan said during the joint press conference. “So it was very important for me to come here and come with our security chief that we resolve this issue.”

A new umbrella group representing various insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped from buses in the province, which borders Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday the training and logistical camps of the new alliance that carried out the attack were based inside Iran and called on Iran to take action against the insurgents.

Shi’ite Muslim Iran says militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and has repeatedly called on Islamabad to crack down on them.

Tehran has stepped up security along its long border with Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in southeastern Iran, with Iranian officials saying the attackers were based inside Pakistan.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Baloch minority, claimed responsibility for that attack.

Separately, Rouhani said during the joint press conference that the Islamic Republic is ready to help with Pakistan’s oil and gas needs.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh, editing by Louise Heavens)

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A security officer stands in front of St Anthony's shrine in Colombo
A security officer stands in front of St Anthony’s shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

April 22, 2019

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Authorities lifted a curfew in the Sri Lanka on Monday, a day after 290 people were killed and about 500 wounded by a string of bombings that tore through churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

There was still no claim of responsibility for the attacks on two churches and four hotels in and around Colombo, the

capital of predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka, and a third church on the country’s northeast coast.

A government source said President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council early on Monday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said.

There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there

had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Sri Lanka had been at war for decades with Tamil separatists but extremist violence had been on the wane since the civil war ended 10 years ago.

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about eight

and 12 percent.

The island-wide curfew imposed by the government was lifted early on Monday, although there was uncharacteristically thin traffic in the normally bustling capital.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Center in the business

district, where the four hotels were targeted on Easter Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.

Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted.

The government also blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making information hard to come by.

Wickremsinghe acknowledged on Sunday that the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group, but said ministers had not been told.

Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of the 290 people killed and 500 wounded, although government officials said 32

foreigners were also killed. These included British, U.S., Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nations.

A British mother and son eating breakfast at the luxury Shangri-La hotel were among those killed, Britain’s The

Telegraph newspaper reported.

One Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.

He said he and a travel partner were also having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.

“There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”

There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services. Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.

Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected that blast was a suicide attack.

Three police officers were also killed when security forces raided a house in Colombo several hours after the attacks.

Police reported an explosion at the house.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Michael Perry)

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FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 2, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

April 21, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Iran on Sunday to discuss security and regional issues, Iranian state TV reported, a day after Islamabad urged Tehran to act against militants behind killings in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

A new umbrella group representing various insurgent groups operating in Baluchistan claimed responsibility for an attack on Thursday when 14 passengers were killed after being kidnapped from buses in the province, which borders Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Saturday the training and logistical camps of the new alliance that carried out the attack were inside Iran and called for Iran to take action against the insurgents.

Iranian TV said that Khan began his two-day visit to Iran, the first since he took office last August, with a stop in the northeastern holy Shi’ite city of Mashhad.

Khan will meet Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, as well as other officials, in Tehran on Monday.

“During the meetings, improving bilateral ties, border security, countering terrorism and regional issues will be discussed,” state TV said.

Relations between Iran and Pakistan have been strained in recent months, with both sides accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

Shi’ite Muslim Iran says militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and has repeatedly called on Islamabad to crack down on them.

Tehran has stepped up security along its long border with Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in southeastern Iran, with Iranian officials saying the attackers were based inside Pakistan.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Baloch minority, claimed responsibility for that attack.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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FILE PHOTO - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) shakes hands with Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan (L) during Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) first-phase launching at Bundaran HI station in Jakarta
FILE PHOTO – Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (R) shakes hands with Governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan (L) during Jakarta Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) first-phase launching at Bundaran HI station in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 14, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Hafidz Mubarak A/ via REUTERS

April 21, 2019

By Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Even with Indonesia’s current presidential election result still to be officially confirmed, attention is turning to the next race for the top job in 2024 with some rising political stars and well-connected figures in the frame.

Sample vote counts by private pollsters from last week’s poll show that incumbent President Joko Widodo is headed for a second and final term in office though the results are being disputed by his challenger, ex-general Prabowo Subianto.

There are, however, a string of new leaders waiting in the wings for their chance including some who, like Widodo, cut their teeth running cities or provinces across the archipelago, and also the offspring of ex-leaders being groomed to take over.

Still, a candidate needs at least 20 percent of seats in parliament or 25 percent of the popular vote to stand, meaning it is conceivable for this year’s challenger Subianto, who is chairman of the Gerindra party, to run for a third attempt.

“We have a lot of potential leaders… The threshold should be lowered to give these people an open opportunity,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are some of the possible contenders for the 2024 vote.

Anies Baswedan, 49, is the governor of Jakarta. The former education minister, with backing from opposition parties and some hardline Islamist groups, defeated the popular ethnic-Chinese, Christian governor of the capital in a vote marred by religious tensions. Still, the Fulbright Scholar who comes from a family of moderate Muslim scholars is seen as appealing to younger voters and representing a more modern face of Islam.

Sandiaga Uno, 49, was elected vice governor of Jakarta in 2017, but stood down to be the vice presidential running mate for Prabowo. His private equity fortune made to a large degree with investments in Indonesia’s coal industry helped fund Prabowo and his campaign. Though a relative newcomer to politics, the campaign has allowed him to raise his profile across Indonesia and he proved a hit with millennial and female voters.

Ridwan Kamil, 47, is governor of Indonesia’s most populous province West Java and an ally of Widodo. A trained architect, he was previously mayor of Bandung where he is credited with rebranding the city to encourage creativity and use of technology. He has successfully used social media to connect with voters and has more than 10 million followers on Instagram.

Puan Maharani, 45, is a minister for human development and cultural affairs. She has political pedigree as the daughter of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri and granddaughter of Indonesia’s charismatic first leader, Sukarno. Her mother chairs the biggest party in parliament, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is in the ruling coalition.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 40, is the eldest son of former president and Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Harvard-educated politician followed his father by having a military career and despite his inexperience ran in the Jakarta governor race in 2017 where he lost in the first round. The Democratic Party has also not fared so well this year.

Other names being circulated by pollsters or the media include regional leaders such as Ganjar Pranowo, 50, the governor of Central Java, Tri Rismaharini, 57, mayor of Surabaya, and East Java governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa, 53.

In eastern Indonesia, Nurdin Abdullah, 56, the South Sulawesi governor, is also seen as a contender.

Deputy parliament speaker and vice chairman of the Gerindra party Fadli Zon, 47, is also seen as a possible candidate as a Prabowo loyalist.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, 52, the ex-governor of Jakarta, still has many supporters if he did try to get back into politics even with a blasphemy conviction for insulting the Koran.

Billionaire businessman Erick Thohir, 48, who orchestrated last year’s Asian Games and Widodo’s 2019 presidential campaign, has also been mentioned though he has denied interest in a political career and up to now lacks governance experience.

(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Yerica Lai; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar
FILE PHOTO – Reuters journalists Wa Lone (L) and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are based in Myanmar, pose for a picture at the Reuters office in Yangon, Myanmar December 11, 2017. Picture taken December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

April 21, 2019

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s Supreme Court will rule on Tuesday on an appeal of two Reuters journalists imprisoned for breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, in a case that has raised questions about the country’s transition to democracy.

Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, have spent more than 16 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men during a military crackdown in the western part of the country.

The Supreme Court, the highest court in Myanmar, listed the journalists’ case on its website and Facebook page on Saturday.

The government has said they had been found in possession of secret documents that could have harmed national security.

Outlining their grounds of appeal in March, the reporters’ lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, cited lack of proof of a crime and evidence that the pair were set up by police. A policeman told a lower court last year that officers had planted secret documents on the two reporters.

A district court judge in Yangon found the two journalists guilty under the Official Secrets Act last September and sentenced them to seven years in prison. The Yangon High Court rejected an earlier appeal in January.

Both men are separated from young families. Wa Lone’s wife, Panei Mon, gave birth to their first child last year.

The reporters’ imprisonment has sparked an outcry from press freedom advocates, Western diplomats, and world leaders, adding to pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who took power in 2016 amid a transition to military rule.

The investigation that the journalists were working on was completed by colleagues and published in 2018. Last week it was awarded the Pulitzer prize for international reporting.

(Reporting by Thu Thu Aung; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Source: OANN


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